For the first time in its history, Sullivan City will participate in one of the oldest traditions in western Hidalgo County.
Oh Wednesday, Sullivan City officials celebrated the success of their first Miss Sunshine Pageant, named after the city’s motto “The city of Sunshine.”
“We will be participating more in Citrus Fiesta,” Hermalinda Salinas, president of the United Committee-which sets up events around the city-said Wednesday. “Our city is rising and we will win. Everything has been progressing, we’re getting everything for the best and it’s for the community.”
Typically, Sullivan City participates at TCF by having their fire truck and police cars be part of the annual Parade of Oranges, Sullivan City Mayor Leonel “Leo” Garcia said. For years, however, the city has been discussing the possibility of having a pageant to have Sullivan City represented in the chance to be given TCF’s top title of Queen Citrianna.
The Miss Sunshine pageant last February saw five girls enter and three girls elected to compete for the TCF Royal Court. They are Alexa Verastegui-Duchess of Sunshine, Sandra Marbella Ramirez-Duchess of Ebony and Nathaly Flores-Duchess of Zinnia.
“We’re coming and we’re going in strong,” Garcia said. “We will push it and challenge every city here. Every girl from every city deserves a chance to be on that court.”
Wednesday’s celebration was a dinner where city officials and the three duchesses honored the sponsors who donated to make the pageant happen. The sponsors honored included Hidalgo County Precinct 3 Commissioner Joe Flores, husband and wife Alex and Vicky Cantu, who serve on the school boards for La Joya ISD and South Texas College respectively, 449th District Court Judge Renee Rodriguez Betancourt, City of Peñitas Councilmember Alex Guajardo and his wife, Roxanne and 398th District Court Judge Keno Vasquez.
“They’re the ones who made it happen for the girls and this city,” Garcia said, adding that with the sponsorship the girls were provided with dresses, shoes and crowns for the pageant.
Also honored at the event was Diana Flores, owner of Peñitas’ Flores Floral Shop. According to Salinas, Flores has been helping Sullivan City throughout the years by providing several items ranging from plaques, bouquets, linens and chair covers from her floral shop.
Flores is also involved in the cities of Palmview and La Joya where she serves on the board of directors for the Palmview Chamber of Commerce and as host for the La Joya VFW Auxiliary Bingo.
“It’s just something I do to help the community,” Flores said. “It’s very important for me to help the community. Love for the community was instilled by my father so it’s second hand nature for me to help.”
These thoughts were echoed by Alex Cantu, a Sullivan City native who attended the dinner.
“It’s for the kids so what better way to come back to my hometown and try to give back so another child can have the opportunity to represent Sullivan City,” Alex Cantu said. “We support any child, but it was extra special here, this is near and dear to me.”
The actions from the honored donors exemplified the support the duchesses are getting from their own community, Verastegui said.
“I’m surrounded with two other duchesses and I feel more comfortable because we’re not alone,” Verastegui said. “The community being behind us like this exemplifies that support and why we don’t feel alone even though we’re the first girls doing this. We’re so proud to be from here and we hope to take it a long way in the pageant.”
This article originally appeared in the Friday Nov. 8, 2019 issue of the Progress Times.