Over the last decade, much has changed for Florida citrus. Most notably, thanks to the onset of HLB, a sense of security producers had grown to know was lost. Another element of the industry that has been absent during that time is the annual crowning of Miss Florida Citrus, formerly Florida Citrus Queen.
Dating back to the early 1920s, the honor not only offered young women a chance to be goodwill ambassadors for the industry, but also would eventually evolve to include continuing education opportunities plus a chance to become the next Miss America.
Not having crowned a Miss Florida Citrus since 2003, the time was right to put the pageant back on the map, said Brenda Eubanks Burnette, Florida Citrus Hall of Fame executive director and past Florida Citrus Queen.
“La Voyce Leggett Porter (another former Florida Citrus Queen) approached me after we had a reunion of Citrus Queens at Bok Tower this past November,” she said. “She has been a large supporter of the Miss America system in providing scholarships for young women and offered to give us a start-up grant in order to have us bring back the Miss Florida Citrus Pageant.”
With that, in late March at the Ritz Theatre in Winter Haven, Summer Foley of Ormond Beach was crowned the 2015 Miss Florida Citrus. Foley, 17, was sponsored by Florida’s Natural Growers and will go on to represent the industry in the Miss Florida Pageant, which takes place next month in St. Petersburg. The winner of that pageant advances to the Miss America Pageant in September.
“We’re happy to continue the tradition of Miss Florida Citrus and are excited to have Summer Foley representing the industry in the upcoming Miss Florida Pageant,” Eubanks Burnette said.
I had a chance to ask the new Miss Florida Citrus a few questions to find out more about the young woman behind the crown.
1. What does being crowned Miss Florida Citrus mean to you?
A: It is such an honor. It already has been such a joy meeting the people who contribute to the industry. Citrus comprises a significant part of Florida’s economy and I am learning mass amounts of information about it, plus a lot about how citrus started and Florida’s history, which is fascinating to me.
2. What inspired you to enter the Miss Florida Citrus competition?
A: I entered the pageant for two reasons: encouragement and fun. If anything, it was another chance to get on a stage, sing, meet new people, and talk about things I truly care about. Everyone wants to win any competition they enter, but I think it can be counterproductive to expect that as a result. I also had amazing girls to the right and left of me, so that quickly absolved expectations. Now, I could not be happier with my decision to enter this particular pageant. The pageant world, in general, is a positive and supportive environment, and I think this community would benefit any woman.
3. What course of study are you planning to pursue?
A: I plan on attending a conservatory or university for Musical Theatre and Vocal Performance with a minor in Foreign Languages. I have had the dream of Broadway since about five years old, so I am letting this dream take me wherever it may.
4. What aspects of being Miss Florida Citrus are you most looking forward to?
A: I cannot wait to meet more of the people comprising the citrus industry. Of course, I also am very excited to represent citrus in the Miss Florida pageant in June for the first time in more than a decade, and hopefully in the Miss America pageant. At first, the thought of Miss America seemed abstract and distant, but that is no longer the case, so I am truly excited this has become a palpable opportunity. The Miss Florida Citrus position offers so much, so I want to do my job and enjoy as much as I can before I pass it on.
5. What’s one thing about yourself that you’d like readers to know?
A: I am the biggest fan of orange juice. Although, chocolate milk comes in a close second. I am honored to be a representative for this amazing and interesting industry and I am looking forward to a great year.
6. Anything else you’d like to add?
A: My platform is advocating sobriety, promoting positive, healthy living, and a chance for those who struggle with alcohol and substance abuse to not feel ashamed or embarrassed to ask for or receive help. This is a huge societal problem that I have witnessed firsthand through a family member and I plan on diminishing this embarrassment or even eliminating it. I look forward to pushing this platform in the Miss Florida pageant and hopefully the Miss America pageant because of its importance to me.