PLANT CITY — Florida Strawberry Festival queen hopefuls won't be strutting in swimsuits next year.
Pageant officials decided last week to ditch the swimsuits in favor of a casual wear contest. Officials have also raised the grade point average requirement to 3.0 from 2.75.
"We didn't take lightly breaking tradition," said Sandee Sytsma, the festival queen coordinator. The swimsuit competition has been a part of the pageant for at least 50 years, she said.
While there have been some complaints over the years about 16- to 20-year-old competitors in swimsuits, the standard was a one-piece outfit. "They never wore skimpy bathing suits," Sytsma said.
Next year's hopefuls will compete in a casual wear contest, wearing jeans or capris and blouses — the type of outfit the winner often wears when representing the festival at events throughout the year.
Eliminating the swimsuit competition might also encourage more women to apply, Sytsma said.
In past years, some young ladies have said they wouldn't compete if they had to wear a swimsuit, she said.
Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 661-2443.