For the first time, two UF students were crowned at the annual Miss UF pageant.
Miss Florida Gator and Miss University of Florida received their crowns on stage before a crowd of more than 200 people Monday night as the pageant celebrated its 60th anniversary.
More sponsors than past years allowed the pageant to have money for two winners, said Julia Branton, an assistant director of the pageant.
Savannah Judkins (Miss University of Florida), a UF advertising junior, and Rachel Smith (Miss Florida Gator), a UF telecommunication senior, stood onstage with 15 other contestants at the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts after winning their titles.
Judkins, 21, sponsored by Kappa Delta Sorority, won a $1,250 scholarship, a crown and gift cards from businesses across Gainesville.
Smith, sponsored by Delta Delta Delta Sorority, won a $500 scholarship.
Judkins represented “From Houses to Homes,” a foster care advocacy organization she hopes to start, as her platform.
She said as someone who was adopted and avoided the foster care system, she wants to do everything she can for children who aren’t as lucky as she was.
“Kids aren’t given what they need to succeed, and we need to take our civic responsibility to make sure they get the necessary tools they need,” she said.
She said she wants to go to law school to practice real estate law in the future, but in her free time she wants to do pro bono work for foster cares and group homes.
Platforms are the most important part of the pageant, said Branton.
The platforms can be based on whatever the girls choose, she said.
“I know one girl this year had anorexia in the past, and she chose to make that known and inform the public about that. It’s usually something that’s very close to home for them,” she said.
The 17 contestants competed in four categories: questions, swimwear, talent and evening wear.
Talents ranged from singing and playing piano to sand animation, and each contestant represented a platform she is passionate about.
Judkins said she got involved in the pageant because of her love of singing.
“I love singing, and I missed singing on stage and really wanted an outlet to do that,” she said.
Judkins said she didn’t expect to win.
“I’m at a loss for words if I’m being totally honest,” she said.
She said she will spend the coming months preparing for the Miss Florida competition in June.
“I’ll just be preparing for that up until the competition,” she said.
“The former Miss UF and Miss Florida is in my sorority, and it’s been so cool watching her success, and now I get to try to do the same,” she said.