Contestants prepare for 2017 Miss Florida USA pageant

Pageant finale airs July 23 on Local 10

By Sanela Sabovic - Reporter

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Contestants for the 2017 Miss Florida USA pageant were at the Parker Playhouse on Thursday, excitedly getting ready for the pageant that is just two days away.

After last year's controversy, show organizers said they have moved on with a new owner and new image.

"We're going to go on stage and rock it (and) give it all we have," Miss Coral Gables Natalie Goenaga said.  

One of the 67 women will be crowned Miss Florida USA on Saturday and will then go on to participate in the Miss USA pageant.

The winner of last year's Miss Florida USA pageant remembers the fallout after former co-owner Donald Trump made some controversial comments about Mexican immigrants.

"It was really unfortunate for the girls that have been working so hard their entire lives for this," Miss Florida USA 2016 Brie Gabrielle said. 

Trump's comments forced the network the pageant was set to air on to drop the show along with numerous sponsors pulling out. 

"We were doing a press conference in Doral at 2 o'clock after he announced it at noon, so we really were at the epicenter," the pageant's executive producer, Grant Gravitt, said. "We did a show without sponsors. The show goes on. That was our 38th year, (and) we made it through, thanks to our friends at Channel 10 and all of those that supported us. Now we are here for the 39th (year). (It's) bigger and better and totally rebranded (and) reimaged, almost like a new beginning."

With the controversy behind them, the girls are looking ahead to their big day, and Miss Florida USA is offering her support and giving out some helpful advice.

"Have fun, and be yourself," she said.

Miss Florida USA will air on Local 10 at 7 p.m. July 23.

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