History of the Junior Orange Bowl International Youth Festival
Known as "The Largest International Youth Sports and Arts Festival," the Junior Orange Bowl Youth Festival blossomed in 1948 when the first Junior Orange Bowl Parade traveled through beautiful downtown Coral Gables. This was the wonderful beginning of a festival that is totally dedicated to "Celebrating Youth."
The first Junior Orange Bowl Queen, Sandy Wirth, was selected in 1951. The 12 & 13 years old girls were, and continue to be, judged on poise, personality and presentation. Presently, preliminary pageants take place from Key West to as far north as Vero Beach. In 1959 the Junior Orange Bowl Committee was officially formed.
The sixties marked the introduction of several new events. In 1962 the Junior Orange Bowl International Tennis Championship was established for boys and girls that are 12 & 14 and under. Over the years the draw has included several great players who have gone on to gain stardom on the professional circuit. Tennis greats Chris Evert, Jimmy Connors, Mary Joe Fernandez, Monica Seles, Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf have all played in our tournament.
1964 was the inaugural year for the Invitational Golf Tournament. Top U.S. and foreign players 18 years and younger compete in this event which is now recognized as one of the world?s most prestigious junior golf tournaments. This invitational has produced such tour stars as Andy North, Craig Stadler, Hal Sutton, Mark Calcavecchia, Bob Tway, Billy Mayfair, Willie Wood, and Jose Maria Olazabal, of Spain who won the 1994 Masters Championship in Augusta, Georgia. The Golf tournament continues to draw rising champions; "Tiger" Woods was our 1991 winner. A Bowling Tournament was added in 1969 attracting children from Florida, surrounding states and Puerto Rico. This was also the first year the parade was televised nationally.
In 1972 a Soccer Tournament was added. 1977 marked the first Girl's International Golf Tournament. In 1978 Wrestling and a 5-K Run were added to the schedule of events. The early and mid eighties saw even more new events; a Creative Arts Competition (visual and written), Photography Contest, a Basketball Classic, Gymnastics Competition (attracting top junior gymnasts in the U.S.), The Sports Ability Games (geared towards physically challenged youth) and a Cheerleading Competition. The Caroling Competition emerged during the 1986 festival.
In addition to the many new events, the 1989 Junior Orange Bowl Festival hosted the 1989 World Championship Games for Disabled Youth. This event alone brought physically challenged young athletes from around the world to compete for world titles.
1990 was a landmark year in the Junior Orange Bowl's history with the success of the festival's first-ever nighttime parade. Over 150,000 spectators attended this historic event. In 1993, a Pre-Parade show was added to the already exciting parade line-up. In 1998, the Festival introduced the inaugural International Scholastic Chess Tournament, which hosts some of the world?s best young minds. Jobie's Fun Day ... a day of fun outdoor activities for special needs children, also debuted in 1998. 1999 marked the emergence of the Cross Country Invitational, featuring some of South Florida's top middle and senior high school runners. The Youth Arts Celebration was introduced in the year 2000 to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the City of Coral Gables. Swimming returned to the Festival in 2001 as the City of Miami Springs hosted this international event.
The Junior Orange Bowl Committee is entering its 65th year of festival activity. The Committee remains dedicated to the community of South Florida and the youth of the world by providing opportunities for wholesome, competitive and multi-cultural experiences. Our mission is very simple, "Celebrate Youth."