By LOIS KINDLE
The annual Ruskin Tomato & Heritage Festival is just around the corner. Before it happens, however, the annual tradition of determining Tomato Festival Queens must take place.
The Ruskin Tomato Festival Queen Pageant will take place at 7 p.m. June 17 at the Southshore Falls Ballroom, 5831 Cascade Falls Lane, Apollo Beach.
“This is a longstanding community tradition, started by area farmers, and we’re continuing it,” said Cheryl DeLeon, pageant organizer. “The last one we had was before the pandemic in 2019. We’re excited to be presenting the pageant [and festival] again.”
“It’s also an important fundraiser for the Ruskin Community Development Foundation, the event sponsor,” added RCDF Board member Debbie Caneen. “Proceeds are used to support a variety of community projects and scholarships for graduating high school seniors.”
Enthusiasm is high. More than 25 contestants have already signed up to participate in one of four different age groups – five to 12, 13 to 19, 20 to 40 and 41 and over. If you or your child are interested, there’s still time to sign up by the June 3 deadline.
The registration fee of $50 per person, made payable to RCDF [Ruskin Community Development Foundation], must be mailed in advance to P.O. Box 695, Ruskin, FL 33575.
The application itself and a contestant agreement form are available by emailing email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org/. Once completed, the two forms and a high-resolution digital photo of the contestant [dressed in formal wear] must be emailed to either address.
The photo will be uploaded to https://www.facebook.com/RuskinTomatoFestival/, where friends and family can go and vote by liking and sharing it. Points will be awarded and included as part of the judging.
All contestants must agree to attend a rehearsal for the pageant [date to be determined] and agree to appear in upcoming community events, including this year’s Ruskin Tomato & Heritage Festival, SouthShore’s Best Festival, Mexican Independence Day and Ruskin Veterans Day Parade. They also must appear in formal wear at the June 17 pageant, where they’ll be briefly interviewed by emcee and honorary mayor Joe Zuniga and receive points based on their responses from a panel of judges. The panel will also award points for overall appearance and comportment.
The winners in each category will be the contestants with the highest point totals. They’ll receive crowns, sashes and gift baskets, and all contestants will receive bling bags.
The pageant is open to the public. Admission is $5 per person. Contestants and a family member or escort get in free due to the $50 paid entry fee. Other family members pay $5.
The event will include appetizers, wine, beer and nonalcoholic beverages. A variety of vendors, including esthetician Wendy Foss, hairdresser Bailey Bostick and Mary Kay consultant Cora Simon, will be on hand.
For more information, contact DeLeon at email@example.com/.