PIECES OF THE PAST: Centennial Celebrations

Josh McGillMiss Florida Citrus, Pieces of the Past

By Brenda Eubanks Burnette

Gap Kovach, formerly head of HESCO, recently sent me a surprise packet of goodies for the Citrus Archives that included citrus labels, the 1986 Miss Florida Citrus program and the Winter Park Public Library 1985 calendar. The calendar was in honor of the library’s centennial celebration and featured numerous Florida citrus crate labels “as a salute to the Florida citrus industry in recognition of its contribution to the development of this region.”


The calendar dedication went on to note that “From the very beginning, the fortunes of the cities of Central Florida, their educational, cultural and civic institutions have been inextricably bound to the fortunes of local citrus growers. In the history of the Winter Park Public Library, these names are but a few of those which evoke memories of shared good fortune: Brewer, Chase, Comstock, Galloway, Morgan, Morse, Temple, Ward.

“Of these, one man, William Chase Temple, will be known in the history of the citrus industry for all time. The Temple Orange bears the name of this Winter Park resident. A four-time mayor of the city, he owned the groves Alabama and Sunnyside. Temple, a president of the Winter Park Citrus Growers Association, founded and owned the Willcardo Fruit Company, whose logo is shown here. Willcardo was derived from his own name, William, his wife’s name, Carrie, and his daughter’s name, Dorothy. Temple’s interest in citrus was not confined to Winter Park. He was a founding member and later general manager of the Florida Citrus Exchange — a central marketing organization. For it was in mass marketing the crop that success was measured.”

I was surprised to find that Temple is not in the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame, so I will have to find out more about him!

Although I had seen the calendar before through my friend, Jerry Chicone, I thought it was such a coincidence that the Miss Florida Citrus program was also included in Gap’s packet because next year marks 100 years since the first Florida Citrus Queen was chosen! Dorothy Henderson was the very first Florida Citrus Queen and was crowned in 1924 at a pageant on the shores of Lake Silver in Winter Haven.

The Florida Citrus Exposition sponsored the Florida Citrus Queen program, which was devoted to the promotion of the Florida citrus industry. Each year, a young woman was carefully selected to serve as the official goodwill ambassador throughout the state, the nation and the world. The Citrus Queen would reign over the Florida Citrus Exposition, which eventually became the Florida Citrus Festival. The Florida Citrus Queen has been photographed throughout the years with celebrities, dignitaries and the U.S. president. Florida Citrus Queens even made appearances at the World’s Fair.

In 1983, changing with the times, the name changed to Miss Florida Citrus. The selection process changed from that of a more traditional beauty pageant to three days full of interviews, videotaping and media/communications judged by a panel of industry leaders.

The position became a full-time salaried employee of the Florida Department of Citrus in 1990, and Miss Florida Citrus traveled extensively throughout the world attending national conventions and conducting numerous television, radio and print interviews as the industry’s spokesperson. The program was put on hiatus in 2004, but the title was resurrected as part of the Miss America preliminary system from 2015 to the present and is currently part of the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame’s outreach programs.

Plans are just beginning for the Miss Florida Citrus centennial celebration in 2024, so I hope you’ll help by sending any photos and memorabilia of our Florida Citrus Queen/Miss Florida Citrus representatives to me at 1915 23rd Avenue, Vero Beach, FL 32960. We are also looking for sponsors, volunteers and contact information for our “Florida Citrus Forevers” — all of the ladies who have held the title of either Florida Citrus Queen or Miss Florida Citrus.

Centennial celebration coincidences? I think not. Thank you, Gap!

Brenda Eubanks Burnette is executive director of the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame. Pieces of the Past is presented in partnership with Florida Southern College’s McKay Archives Center in Lakeland.

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