Glamour and growth: How Lakeland became Miss Florida’s crown jewel

Miss Florida has changed a lot over 90 years, including finding a new home in Swan City.

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We’re all familiar with Lakeland’s affinity for the royal swans gifted by Queen Elizabeth II, but did you know that it’s also fit for a different kind of royalty? We’re talking about the Miss Florida organization, an official state chapter of the Miss America program.

The past


She’s beauty and she’s grace, she’s Miss Sarasota 1961, Sherry Grimes, who went on to become Miss Florida that year.

Photo via Florida Memory

Since Miss Florida’s official inception in 1935, the annual competition has been held in various cities across the state, including an 11-year stint in St. Petersburg. We’re looking at you, TBAYtoday.

In 2016, the organization established Lakeland as its new permanent home. With 40+ women hailing from Tallahassee, Miami Beach, and other Florida cities competing for the title each year, it also brought ~$1.6 million in tourism revenue to Swan City. (Think: Enough for around 320,000 slices at Palace Pizza.)

The present

A group of Miss Florida local titleholders stand in front of a Miss Florida banner inside the RP Funding Center

Miss Florida has around 40+ competitors each year representing all parts of the Sunshine State, including Lakeland + Polk County.

Photo courtesy of Reilly Cardella

Throughout its nearly 90-year history, Miss Florida has evolved from being primarily a bathing suit-centric beauty contest into a more scholarship and service-focused competition, while still maintaining a touch of glamour.

In the past five years, participants earned more than $1.1 million to be used for their higher education goals. Reigning Miss Lakeland 2023, Amanda Kronhaus, has been participating in the program since 2014 and used her scholarship funds to help her obtain a BFA in Acting from Oklahoma City University.

The future


The next Miss Lakeland will be crowned March 9, 2024.

Photo courtesy of Miss Lakeland 2023, Amanda Kronhaus.

Miss Lakeland, a local preliminary to Miss Florida, is coming up on Saturday, March 9 at 6 p.m. at the Polk Theatre. Six Lakelanders ages 13-28 will advance to the state competition in June as representatives of Swan City — and maybe even go on to Miss America. If you want the chance to potentially witness history in the making and say, “We knew them when...” spectators can buy tickets at the door.

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