Inside the chamber: How Strawberry Days, scholarships and college go hand in hand |

Inside the chamber: How Strawberry Days, scholarships and college go hand in hand

I moved to Glenwood Springs Sept. 1, 2000, from northeastern Pennsylvania. It has been quite a journey, and the time has flown by. I obviously did not know anything about the Strawberry Days Festival and actually missed Strawberry Days my first year, but I have been at the festival or part of it every year ever since.

I was also unaware when I moved to Glenwood Springs that the chamber was in charge of the Strawberry Days Festival, but quickly found this out after I became employed there.

For Strawberry Days of 2003, I supervised the parade. When the staff informed me that was going to be part of my job requirement that year I thought they were being facetious, but, no, I was right in the throes of everything. A little gal from the backwoods of northeastern Pennsylvania running a big parade with thousands of visitors and locals watching; my family and friends back east would have been very proud. As it goes, everything turned out fine, and the parade went on without a glitch.

In 2004, Miss Strawberry Days was being added to my duties. I was actually relieved to turn the parade over to someone else and felt that I related more to the Miss Strawberry Days contestants. So this is when my reign, as I like to call it, with Miss Strawberry Days commenced.

When I started helping with Miss Strawberry Days as the chamber liaison, longtime local Ginger Watts volunteered, as she had for many years, as the chair of the scholarship contest, and I assisted her. A couple years later Ginger moved to another part of Colorado for a promotion with the company for which she is still employed.

Strawberry Days 2007 was when I met Jennifer Rose from Bighorn Toyota. At that time, $4,500 was being awarded for the scholarships. It was then that Bighorn Toyota saw the importance of the scholarship dollars and offered to be the Miss Strawberry Days sponsor and still is to this day. In 2012, Bighorn upped the ante, and the scholarship contest has evolved to what it is today: $8,000 worth of scholarship money is up for grabs now to four local young women.

There are so many volunteers and businesses involved in Miss Strawberry Days. The Glenwood Hot Springs sponsors the fashion show, which is poolside beginning at 6 p.m. Thursday, June 16.

Jennifer Rose and Janelle Rhoton have co-chaired the event for many years. Gus Lundin tallies the judges’ books, various businesses sponsor contestants every year, the contestants volunteer at a local nonprofit during the contest, boutiques assist by allowing the contestants to model their clothing, hairdressers assist with hair and makeup for the fashion show, and local business people volunteer their time as judges. It takes the entire community’s support to put on this event, and the help is greatly appreciated.

We would like to invite young ladies in the RE-1 and RE-2 school districts to join us at our informational meeting at 6 p.m. Monday, April 25, at Bighorn Toyota. At the meeting we will discuss the schedule for this year and see if it fits into yours. So if you live in the boundaries of one of our school districts, are between the ages of 16 and 20 and plan on attending college in the next two years, please attend the meeting, bring your friends, and find out what Miss Strawberry Days is all about.

The scholarship award is distributed directly to the recipient’s continuing education institution of choice in the amount of $3,000 for first place, $2,500 for second place, $2,000 for third place and $500 for Miss Congeniality.

In 2015 the winners were: Miss Strawberry Days — Bre L’Estrange $3,000; first runner-up and Miss Congeniality — Maite Nieblas $2,500 and $500 for Miss Congeniality; second runner-up Hannah Nilsson — $2,000.

What is the Miss Strawberry Days Competition?

Miss Strawberry Days is probably the oldest civic festival competition west of the Mississippi. The program has evolved over the years from a beauty pageant where contestants modeled bathing suits at the Hot Springs to a scholarship competition.

Miss Strawberry Days is not a beauty pageant or a popularity contest. While the winning contestants earn substantial scholarships, they are not judged on academics.

Miss Strawberry Days is judged on personality, how the young woman connects with others, and her ability to work with and motivate a group. Miss Strawberry Days should be a true ambassador for Glenwood Springs, having contributed to her school and community. Through a fun and interactive judging process, judges who are new to the community or have no special interest select the best possible representative of Glenwood Springs.

Joni Bates is the VP of membership development at the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association and the chamber liaison for the Miss Strawberry Days Scholarship Contest. Call 970-945-1514 with questions regarding the Miss Strawberry Days informational meeting or log onto

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