Inside the Chamber column: The Miss Strawberry Scholarship & ATHENA Leadership Program |

Inside the Chamber column: The Miss Strawberry Scholarship & ATHENA Leadership Program

Joni Bates

When I began my tenure at the Glenwood Springs Chamber 17 years ago, I became involved with the Miss Strawberry Days Scholarship Competition. Since then, each year, we have continued to modify the format but not lose the small town festival feel of the program. Our desire is for Miss Strawberry Days to be a very special event for all the interested students in the Re-1 and Re-2 school districts. Many girls in the valley have dreamed of participating in this program since they were little girls, and some are second- or even third-generation candidates.


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

Today the beauty pageant portion is a fashion show. The show has the contestants modeling three different outfits, which are the latest spring/summer fashions from local boutiques, their own creation relative to the current theme (this year’s theme is “Homecoming”) and resort fashions from the Shop at Glenwood Hot Springs. There is also an entire day devoted to interviews, individually and in groups, with the judges; a volunteer day; RISE! ATHENA International Breakfast Program; professional photo shoot and creative projects to be assembled from volunteer day. The contestants must also submit resumes, letters of reference and their biographies.

Changes in 2019

This year we have modernized the event even more by changing the name to include a new addition to the program. Past ATHENA recipients will teach the eight principles of leadership to the contestants, who will in turn receive a certificate from the prestigious ATHENA International program.

Miss Strawberry Days is designed to provide an opportunity for local high school girls to acquire substantial scholarships to help pay for college. Scholarship recipients are selected based upon leadership skills exhibited during the competition, volunteerism, poise and representation as a true community ambassador.

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.

The qualifications to participate are:

Being a resident of Re-1 or Re-2 school districts.

Age 16–20 by May 31, 2019.

Plan on attending some type of continuing education in the next two years.

The entire event would not run as smoothly as it does if not for all the volunteers and sponsors. The volunteer co-chairs work with the contestants in many different aspects. They engage a nonprofit where the contestants donate their time for the volunteer day, which is at a different nonprofit organization in the valley each year. The volunteer co-chairs also ensure the contestants get off in the parade without any glitches. The Glenwood Hot Springs sponsors the fashion show portion of the event and has in the past generously donated the beach attire that is modeled during the fashion show to the contestants. Ron Milhorn, KMTS, emcees the event at the fashion show and final crowning. We also have six different members of the community each year that donate their time as judges.

In 2018 there were 12 local students that participated. The 2018 Miss Strawberry Days and her court were as follows: Miss Strawberry Days — Savannah Otto, $3,000 scholarship; 1st Runner-Up — Brittany Rhodes, $2,500 scholarship; 2nd Runner-Up — Brooke Knutson, $2,000 scholarship; and Miss Congeniality — Brittany Rhodes, $500.

Informational Meeting

We hope to see all interested contestants at the Informational Meeting at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 16. The event is at the Glenwood Springs Library second floor meeting space.

This quote by American fiction writer, poet and literary critic Catherynne M. Valente is so fitting for the positive changes that Miss Strawberry Days has encountered over the years: “Metamorphosis is the most profound of all acts.”

Joni Bates, IOM, is the vice president for membership development at the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association. Contact her at 970-945-1514 or

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