Brooksville (Fla.) resident Cassandra Mandeville lives on a farm, has a passion for animals, art and music and just finished acting for a film role as a Romanian beauty queen.
The latter part will aid Miss 2012 Florida U.S. International for her pageantry functions in the fifth annual Fourth of July Parade next Wednesday (July 4) on Fort Myers Beach.
The footwear conversion from cowboy boots to high heels wasn't too difficult for the now 21-year old, who is 5'11" tall. The transformation to beauty queen and model began just months ago in April 2011, when she met Miss Florida U.S. International Executive Director Suzi Hosfeld at a college night in school.
Miss Florida International’s Cassandra Mandeville will be among 11 expected pageantry winners in this year’s fifth annual Fourth of July Parade, sponsored by the Fort Myers Beach Civic Association.
"I've always wanted to do modeling, but it didn't seem possible because I live in a small town and the thought was you have to live in a big city to accomplish that," said Cassandra. "But, I learned you don't have to."
With help from Hosfeld, Miss Mandeville captured the title of Miss Crystal River before being named Miss Florida International at the state pageant during Nov. 18-20, 2011. In fact, she attended last year's Civic parade with her preliminary title and will lead a large procession of local beauty pageant winners this year, including Miss Cape Coral, Miss Fort Myers, Miss Teen Fort Myers, Miss Teen Florida, Miss SW Florida Teen, Mrs. South Florida, Mrs. Lee County, Miss Gulf View Teen, Miss City of Lakes Teen, Miss Sun Coast, and even the new Miss Crystal River.
The Fort Myers Beach Civic Association-sponsored event begins at 10 a.m. and is expected to last one hour. The graceful lineup will share the road with other parade participants, including 2012 Grand Marshall Garr Reynolds, long-time Beach resident and former mayor who was involved in the incorporation of the Town of Fort Myers Beach and the only Beach councilman to be elected to office three times.
Mandeville's role as Miss Florida International has her off the farm and into traveling the state as a spokesperson.
"I am traveling everywhere. Entering beauty pageants was an opportunity of meeting people and getting myself a platform. I get to go to different high schools and talk to students about self-confidence and furthering their education," said the beauty pageant queen, who also is involved in a library series about reading and education with elementary and middle school students.
Cassandra's education includes graduating from Hernando High School, where she was a member of an undefeated softball team and took AP classes, and current college courses at Pasco Hernando Community College as a business management major.
"I want to get into public relations and work in my town to promote all the small businesses we have here," she said.
Mandeville has appeared in a fashion segment on Azteca America and graced the Edison Parade of Lights parade this past year. She recently wrapped up acting in the 2013 black comedy/action film "Pain & Gain" starring Mark Wahlberg and directed by Michael Bay.
"I actually went into the movie as an extra, met with the director and he decided to give me a character. I play a Romanian beauty queen who gets into a catfight on stage with the main actress," said Mandeville. "I was out of my comfort zone, but I had a lot of fun with it. It is definitely something I would like to do again."
Her young modeling career includes a Cinco De Mayo fashion show in South Beach, a bridal show in Orlando and an upcoming Back-to-School Fashion Show at Miromar Outlets on July 28, where she will act as emcee for the event. She models with Envy Models & Talent.
Mandeville is of Irish/French decent and was born in Brockton, Mass., before moving to Key West when she was three-years old, then to Fort Lauderdale while she was in elementary school and then to five acres of farm land in Hernando County.
Though she doesn't have much down time, she still enjoys the farm life with three horses, three dogs and one cat. The self-proclaimed tomboy has played acoustic and electric guitar for six years.
"When I was in high school, I was in Indie-rock bands that would travel around the state," she said.
Hosfeld said Cassandra is "super easy to work with" and has won the hearts of everyone over from Orlando to Miami to Naples to Fort Myers to Jacksonville. She actually placed 11th at the Miss U.S. International Pageant in Orlando.
"She has a great personality and is as pretty on the inside as she is on the outside," said Suzi. "She's gutsy. She has done everything we have asked of her."
Miss Florida International is available for appearances. Any Beach business interested in utilizing her beauty and spokesperson talent for fundraisers and the like just needs to ask.
"Part of what Miss Florida International's duties involves working with the local citizens and businesses to help them," said Hosfeld. "We try to teach our girls that when you give to others, you get back in return. It's especially rewarding for girls who want to work in business and want to learn how business works."
Parade officials still seek entrants
Officials are still seeking parade entries, vendors and sponsors. Contact Parade Chairman Dennis Boback at 462-8798 for more information. The parade will begin at Beach Elementary School and will proceed north along Estero Boulevard to Times Square. Participants and volunteers are asked to meet at the Oak Street location by 8:30 a.m.
Sponsors already signed up for this year's parade include The Mermaid Lounge and Liquors, The Yucatan Grill and Beach Stand, The Lighthouse Resort, Pink Shell Beach Resort and Spa, DiamondHead Beach Resort and Spa, Mango Bay, Winds, Charley's Boat House, the Surf Club and the Beached Whale.
Parade awards will include Best Musical Unit; Best Decorated Float; Best Patriotic Theme; Best Overall Theme; Best Car; Best Truck; Best Marching Unit; Best Bike; and Best Business; Best Non-Business; and Best of Parade. After the parade, the awards will be announced at The Mermaid Lounge, where the judges will be set up.
The annual holiday parade has become a prelude to the island's spectacular fireworks show off the pier just after dark. Since the Semmer Team has retired from organizing the show, the Town of Fort Myers Beach is now putting on the fireworks event. It is regarded as the finest and most popular in all of Southwest Florida and draws tens of thousands of people to the island and along the shoreline.
In between the morning parade and the evening fireworks, people are encouraged to stay on the Beach and check out the fine restaurants, establishments and shops to fill in their afternoon. In fact, vendors will be set up at Mermaid Lounge to help in the shopping cause. Accommodations are also available for those who are staying the night.
Matanzas Bridge to be closed for parade
Those wishing to drive over the Matanzas Bridge either to or away from Fort Myers Beach should be forewarned. Lee County Sheriff's Office officials will be closing the bridge at 9:45 a.m. for the hour-long fifth annual Fourth of July parade.
Latecomers will be asked to park at the County park-and-ride parking lot at the corner of Fisherman's Wharf and Main Street and walk over the bridge.
LeeTran announces July 4 holiday trolley schedule
LeeTran will operate trolley service with extended hours on Wednesday, July 4. Bus routes on the mainland will not run on the holiday.
Trolley service from Summerlin Square (Summerlin Road. and San Carlos Boulevard) to Bowditch Park on Fort Myers Beach will run every 40 minutes from 7 a.m. until 11:55 p.m. Parking at Summerlin Square is free.
On the island, trolleys will run every 30 minutes between Bowditch Park at the north end, to Lovers Key State Park and back.
Adult trolley fare is 50 cents; seniors aged 65 and older, students, and disabled passengers with required ID can ride for 25 cents. An unlimited-ride All-Day Pass can be purchased from the driver for $1.50.
The extended trolley hours are supported by the Town of Fort Myers Beach, which launches an annual fireworks show from the Beach Pier at Lynn Hall Memorial Park. The show begins just after dusk on July 4.
For further information about bus or trolley service, please call LeeTran at 533-8726 (LEE-TRAN) or visit www.rideleetran.com.
--submitted by Joann Haley
If boating to watch fireworks
Florida is one of the few states that offers many elaborate Fourth of July fireworks displays over water, allowing spectators to view the celebration from the comfort of their boat and making for the perfect holiday outing.
There are, however, a few things you should keep in mind before venturing out for an evening on the water. Rusty Gardner, founder of Florida By Water, reminds us that although this can be a great boating experience, safety must always come first. He offers up a few suggestions:
- Make sure that all of your navigation lights are working. It is imperative that other boaters are able to see you in the dark.
- It is very helpful to have a chart plotter or other navigation device on board when navigating at night. Slow speeds are always better in these conditions and an extra lookout can be invaluable.
- Ensure that you have all of the required safety equipment on board and always wear your life jacket!
- Never drink and boat. As the captain you are responsible for the safety of everyone on your vessel. With so many boats on the water, the Fourth of July is not a time to take risks.
- Be patient. Boat ramps and waterways will be congested after the fireworks. Hang around for a few extra minutes after the display and let the crowds clear out before you head home.
--submitted by Florida By Water