PLANT CITY – The new spokeswoman for the Florida Strawberry Festival is no stranger to the annual celebration.
As a youngster, Lauren Der entered livestock in festival contests, starting when she was 3 years old. In 2009, she wore the coveted crown of festival queen.
She was hired in late June as the festival’s public relations and media representative.
Strawberry festival General Manager Paul Davis said she was a logical choice for the job.
“She has a love for the festival and a love for people,” Davis said. “She grew up in agriculture and grew up at the festival.”
Der worked as an office assistant at the festival’s office while she was wrapping up her 2012 agriculture communications degree from the University of Florida. She spent the last school year as an agriculture teacher at Plant City High.
Der said she was surprised when she was offered the job after former festival spokeswoman KeeLee Tomlinson left to start her own business.
Der was unsure about leaving teaching and prayed for guidance.
“It was not an easy decision. I loved the kids and I loved the school. But I felt like this is where the Lord was leading me,” she said.
Der is the 23-year-old daughter of Dennis and Lori Der. Her only sibling, Erica, was the 2003 festival queen and works as the agriculture education liaison for the Florida Department of Agriculture.
Der’s duties will include helping reporters who are working on stories about the annual celebration of Plant City’s most famous crop. She’ll spend the next few months before the 11-day festival opens Feb. 27 getting familiar with the job.
Der said she’s looking forward to her role.
“Because I grew up in the festival I have a real passion for it,” she said.