Miss Florida crowned in St. Petersburg

Published July 1, 2007

Two years ago, Kylie Williams came to St. Petersburg from her home on the Florida-Georgia border and lost the Miss Florida pageant.

But now, she's back, and the winner of the whole thing.

"It's one of those things you hope to do, but never expect to do," said Williams, of Jasper.

Williams, 23, a Florida State University marketing major, won the Miss Florida crown Saturday at St. Petersburg's Mahaffey Theater, and now heads to the Miss America pageant. She has family in the military and started a nonprofit to support the troops.

The reigning Miss Tallahassee said she hadn't expected to be glittering under the post-pageant spotlight in a celebration at the Coliseum, taking photos with other contestants and little girls who participated in the "princess" part of the pageant.

But she has been competing in pageants for six years. This go-round, she sang I Want to Be a Cowboy's Sweetheart, a country song recently covered by LeAnn Rimes.

Speaking with a Southern drawl, Williams said she enjoyed being in St. Petersburg. A self-described outdoors person, she liked Sunken Gardens best.

As Williams greeted well-wishers, dozens of other contestants snapped photos and dined on a midnight breakfast of home fries, eggs and Danishes, carrying their food from the buffet with their long evening gowns swishing behind.

Miss North Florida Fair Lauren Dymtrow, 22, still has two years to win the title before age restrictions kick in. A resident of Clearwater, she went to Gibbs High School and John Hopkins Middle School. For the Miss Florida tour of St. Petersburg, she said she had seen everything before.

"I've experienced the city through and through," she said, adding her favorite part was the Devil Rays game.

Dymtrow graduates from Florida State with a degree in merchandising in August. She says her ultimate goal is to work in public relations or fashion, but she wants to work as an entertainer on a cruise line first.

Miss St. Petersburg Ashley Hux, 22, said she has made lifelong friends in the competitions. The proof is in her wedding, planned for next May. She met her fiance at a party after a pageant, and she knows one of her bridesmaids through the competitions as well.

This was Hux's last competition, and she said she's ready to move on with the preparation of the pageants to guide her. A University of Florida alumna and business graduate student at Rollins College, Hux starts an internship at a Miami real estate firm Monday.

"I think you reach a certain point in this where what this pageant has prepared you for is your new reality," she said. "You're ready to take the next step."

This year marked the pageant's return to St. Petersburg. It had moved to Miami in 2004, during renovations at the Mahaffey.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report. Stephanie Garry can be reached at sgarry@sptimes.com or (727) 892-2374.