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Miss Florida a big hit at Citrus Expo

August 21, 2019
By CHUCK BALLARO (news@breezenewspapers.com) , North Fort Myers Neighbor

For the past 28 years, the Citrus Expo has made its way to the Lee Civic Center, and every year, one of the main attractions is meeting the reigning Miss Florida Citrus.

Well, they didn't actually meet Miss Florida Citrus this year, because she earned a promotion after winning that crown.

Michaela McLean, who won the Miss Florida Citrus pageant in March at Polk State College in Lakeland, became Miss Florida on June 29, after beating more than three dozen other young ladies, which qualifies her to compete in the Miss America pageant on Dec. 19 at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut.

Article Photos

Miss Florida, Michaela McLean, with her father, Ben, left, and grandfather Benny, at the Citrus Expo at the Lee Civic Center on Wednesday.

CHUCK BALLARO

Due to winning Miss Florida, McLean is unable to fulfill her commitments as Miss Florida Citrus, so the first runner-up, Julianna Fray, will take over as Miss Florida Citrus. Fray did not attend the expo because she has not yet officially been awarded the crown.

McLean's citrus roots run deep, with three generations in the agricultural business. She said she attended the Citrus Expo, crown, sash and all, as a way to thank those who allowed her to represent the citrus industry.

She was there with her father and grandfather, Ben and Benny, and spoke with many people whom she had met over the years in the industry, as well as get her picture taken with those attending the expo.

"My family has been citrus growers for more than 20 years so I wanted to give back to them," McLean said. "It's been an incredible journey meeting growers and organizations in the industry. To be back here as Miss Florida at the expo and give back to those who helped me so much grow up."

McLean, 21, of Clermont, started in beauty pageants at age 16 and won Miss Florida's Outstanding Teen. After attending the University of Alabama, where she majored in dance and public relations, she competed in the Miss Orlando and Miss Florida Citrus pageants. The rest is history.

Ben McLean, of Verdesian Life Sciences and a 27-year veteran in the citrus industry, said Michaela has always dressed as a princess, even at an early age.

"She used to dress up like Cinderella and walk around the house," Ben said. "We always joked that she was going to be a movie star. This is something she naturally takes to. From the earliest stage she has been a girly-girl and has enjoyed the whole ride."

At Miss America, she will do a lyrical dance as her talent, which she has done since age 7. She said she is looking forward to it.

One problem though; because it will be close to Christmas, McLean, being a Florida girl, expects to freeze in New England. She said she will pack all her warm clothes.

McLean said she would try to attend as many citrus events as her schedule will allow. She had planned to come to the Citrus Expo to help her father promote Uncle Matt's Organic.

McLean said being Miss Florida has been a dream of hers, having gotten to know several previous winners in the past.

"I looked up to them for so long and they were my role models," McLean said. "Since stepping into this role, I have been prepared and polished and I'm excited this is my time to represent the state on a national level at Miss America."

 
 

 

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