You could say that Christine Boring’s family was built for Lakeland, or rather, that her father helped to build it. Though she was born and raised in the swan city, her father came from Brooksville. After graduating from Brooksville High School as the valedictorian, with no money and no opportunity to go to college, he joined the army at 19. The army sent him to work for the FBI. Following his work with the FBI, he was one of the very first soldiers to receive the GI Bill from the Army.
“As fate would have, they were just getting ready to start construction on Florida Southern College and they were giving construction scholarships and so my dad went through school helping to build the Frank Lloyd Wright buildings on the GI bill.” He stayed in Lakeland, later working as a phosphate chemist.
Christine’s roots have always pulled her back to the place she calls home. She has lived in Orlando, Texas, Maryland, and Ireland, but, according to Christine, “We always kept coming back to Lakeland because this is home.”
Christine is the owner of SoFlo Boutique Gifts & Art in Lakeland, a charming and eclectic shop. The store was started 5 years ago by local artist, Mary Witte. She brought in artists and someone to run the boutique. Christine said, “When it first started, there was a boutique and there were 3 or 4 anchor artists in here that actually rented space.” The shop also had a gallery space, at one point operating as a co-op.
Christine acquired the store from Mary in 2016. “I really spent the first year building back up, getting more artists in here,” she explained. Christine’s sister Barbara Boulerice also works in the store with her. SoFlo has a truly unique selection of art, clothing, jewelry, and gifts. The store represents about 30 local artists with different mediums–sculpture, ceramics, watercolor, acrylics, oil, photography, and jewelry.
“We’re the shop that loves Lakeland. We have loads of swan stuff. When I can find swan clothes, I buy them.” Swan jewelry, purses, art, and clothing line the walls of the boutique.
Soflo also has a quaint yet functional room that Christine says is available for small meetings, girls nights out, art classes, or other small gatherings.
While tending to her duties as owner of the SoFlo Boutique, Christine has also taken on another important task as the director of the Miss Lakeland Pageant. She saw the need for the pageant’s return after years without it. Seemingly the perfect person for the job, Christine herself is the mother of a former pageant competitor with her daughter, Perianne, who began competing at age 14 eventually winning Miss Teen Lakeland and Miss Lakeland.
“It just seemed like such good life preparation for her. I feel like it took her far in life. It taught her how to get herself together, how to be confident, how to get up on stage and speak to people, the importance of getting up and putting on your makeup and choosing the right clothes.” Christine continued, “[She] just learned how to handle the victories and more importantly, how to handle the defeats.”
According to Christine, the Miss Florida pageant is held right here in Lakeland, bringing in beautiful, talented young women from all over the state. It seemed only right that Lakeland would have representation in this huge event and the possible chance to eventually vie for the Miss America crown. “We need to be there, we need to be represented,” she expressed.
Christine draws from the experience she had with her daughter competing in pageants, saying, “I have a lot of empathy and compassion for this whole experience that the girls and their parents are going through.”
“It’s a lot of ups and downs. You work really hard and you might not come away with what you were hoping for, but that’s not what’s important. What’s important is that you’re getting life experience, that you’re making friends, that this can be a bonding time with your parents, that you learn how to cope with whatever life throws at you, and you enjoy the highs and when the lows come, you swallow it and move forward,” she said. “Every contestant is vying for the Miss America crown, it starts at the local level.”
The pageant circuit is incredibly important for the young women of Lakeland according to the director. Glitter and gowns and hair and makeup are the first things that stand out, but under the surface lie scholarship opportunities, community stewardship, and volunteerism. “The other piece beyond the scholarship is the community service. Every contestant has a platform, they do volunteer service, they speak about their volunteer service, and that’s part of their score.”
Continued education is so important to the organization that the pageant is entirely volunteer-based with all money going to pageant expenses and scholarships.
“If you know any young ladies that you think should be competing for the title, send them our way and we’ll get them signed up,” said Christine. The teen division is ages 13-16 and Miss Lakeland is ages 17-25.
“I really think we’re going to get some awesome girls to represent Lakeland and I think the community as a whole is going to be really excited when they see the outcome,” remarked the director.
The Miss Teen Lakeland and the Miss Lakeland Pageant will be held on March 18th at 2 pm at The Lake Mirror Theatre. You can purchase tickets for $15 at SoFlo Boutique or at the event.
With this being the first year back for the pageant, Christine said they are in need of sponsors. To find out more information on the pageant or to become a sponsor, visit their website, www.misslakeland.com.
Pondering the future, beyond making the Miss Lakeland Pageant a success, Christine reflected, “I want to build this business.” Adding to that thought, she said, “I really want to attract some of the top artists in this area [to display their work at SoFlo].”
To support SoFlo Boutique Gifts & Art, stop into her lovely Lakeland store and shop ‘til you drop, at 1026 Florida Ave. S, Lakeland.
SoFlo Boutique Gifts & Art
1026 Florida Ave. S.
Lakeland, FL 33803
Miss Lakeland Pageant
Lake Mirror Theatre
March 18, 2018 at 2pm