Lakeland Crowned the Miss Florida Host

Miss FloridaLocal tourism folks made a big deal out of today’s announcement that the Miss Florida Scholarship Pageant is coming to Lakeland, but it turns out we could have learned the news on Facebook last week.
Polk County and Lakeland Center officials posed for a photo posted on the Miss Florida Facebook page last Thursday with a caption that read, “So excited about our new partnership in Lakeland!”

The Ledger’s Gary White reported at the beginning of the month on his tourism blog that Polk County Tourism and Sports Marketing was trying to convince pageant officials to leave St. Petersburg, where they’ve been crowning winners for nearly a dozen years.

Today, officials announced that the pageant will be held at The Lakeland Center for the next five years, with the first event scheduled for June 26 through July 2, 2016.

Mary Sullivan, executive director of the Miss Florida Pageant, said contestants and attendees booked 1,400 “room nights” for the pageant in St. Pete.

The Lakeland Center is being provided for free to pageant organizers courtesy of the City of Lakeland and Polk County’s tourism agency.

“It pays to put a little more effort in to help raise that revenue at slower times of the year so the restaurants are full, the hotels are full and so on,” county tourism chief Mark Jackson told The Ledger.

Interesting tidbits:

  • Current Miss Florida Elizabeth Fechtel was also Miss Florida 2014 for six days — until a judge revealed he voted incorrectly and the tiara was awarded to a rival.
  • The last Miss Florida from Lakeland was Jamie Bolding, who won in 1996 competing as Miss Mount Dora. Now Jamie Becker and living in the Sarasota-Bradenton area, she still gets together with other former Miss Floridas.
  •  The only other Lakeland residents on a list of Miss Floridas were Margaret Swindell and Mary Weaver, who both competed in the Miss America Pageant as Miss Lakeland in the early 1920s when Florida had multiple representatives.
  • There is currently no Miss Lakeland pageant, but young women from Polk are eligible to participate in nearby contests, according to a list on the Miss Florida website.

Another take: Tampa Bay Business Journal – St. Pete got ‘too big’ for Miss Florida Pageant