TALLAHASSEE — Miss Florida Seminole Cheyenne Kippenberger and Jr. Miss Florida Princess Allegra Billie were in the spotlight at the Florida State University homecoming Oct. 19-20 as they joined in the school’s celebration in a big way.
Even before Allegra left the downtown Tallahassee hotel for the traditional alumni luncheon and parade Oct. 19, hotel guests stopped her and her mother Tammy Billie to remark on the beauty of their patchwork and pose for photos.
That encounter set the tone for the weekend as the princesses warmly met and chatted with FSU alums, boosters and students and posed for photos all weekend.
“It was surreal,” said Cheyenne, 22. “It was amazing and outdid my expectations. Everyone was kind and excited to meet us.”
“It was a once in a lifetime opportunity,” added Allegra, 18. “To represent our tribe here is an honor.”
The princesses hobnobbed with notable alumni and the homecoming court at the traditional parade luncheon. They worked the room like pros; shaking hands, listening, sharing laughs and posing for photos.
Everyone in the room rode in the parade, so there was a comfortable vibe in the Alumni Center’s Pearl Tyner House.
Some of the alumni at the luncheon had graduated decades earlier and were eager to share their experiences of FSU.
“It was the people at FSU that made it so good,” said Billie Jones, who earned her master of Science degree in physical education administration and enjoyed a career in the physical education department from 1972 to 1989.
Her colleague Janet Wells, class of 1942, agreed. She taught physical education at FSU from 1957 to 1989 and said she had a “wonderful time” teaching at FSU.
Perched on convertibles, Cheyenne and Allegra made their public debut in the homecoming parade.
The homecoming theme was Garnet, Gold and Glory, and nearly everyone watching the parade wore the colors.
Crowds lined the streets and cheered as the princesses waved. Eighty-five floats including dignitaries and alumni in convertibles, law enforcement groups, FSU clubs, dance groups and cheerleaders made their way through the streets.
The FSU Marching Chiefs followed the flag corps and majorettes as they played rousing music and drumbeats along the parade route.
“This is more than I ever expected,” said Cheyenne. “Being here we are honored in a different way. We are in our home state, the team is called the Seminoles and there is a different level of respect.”
The following day FSU President John Thrasher spoke at the alumni awards breakfast, which he called a special gathering of Seminoles.
Just 10 days after Hurricane Michael, the strongest hurricane to hit the panhandle in recorded history, Thrasher said they deliberately chose to hold homecoming even though so many people were affected by the storm.
“We are rallying around our friends in the panhandle,” Thrasher said. “We started a fundraiser for them. Our Panama City campus was hit very hard, but we are doing everything we can to make it up to our students.”
The FSU Foundation launched the Seminole Emergency Relief Fund, including a special fund for the Panama City campus.
Signs for the fund were displayed throughout the stadium. For more information, visit fsu.edu/foundation.
“I wanted this weekend to happen so we could talk about all the ways we can help,” Thrasher said. “You can help by contributing to the Red Cross, volunteering your time and donating items.”
Thrasher also said he is proud of the school’s strong relationship with the Tribe and thanked the princesses for participating in the homecoming festivities.
Kickoff for the big game against Wake Forest was scheduled for 3:30 p.m., but the princesses had more schmoozing to do before they crowned the new homecoming chief and princess on the 50-yard line.
The President’s Box at Doak Campbell Stadium was filled with alumni and boosters. The princesses expertly mingled with the crowd.
“I loved it here,” said Dr. Fanchon “Fancy” Funk, retired from the college of education. “I’m so proud to have been at FSU.”
More than 67,200 fans filled the stadium, which was awash in garnet and gold as the team took the field. After a rough start, FSU beat Wake Forest 38-17. The score was 21-10 at halftime when the princesses, homecoming court and Marching Chiefs replaced the ‘Noles on the field.
But first, FSU recognized the late Howard Tommie’s contribution to the school by starting the Osceola and Renegade program in 1978 when he served as Chairman of the Seminole Tribe. His family, including Dorothy Tommie, Karen Two Shoes, Sam Two Shoes, Helesi Two Shoes and Honwe Nupa Two Shoes, stood in the end zone and received the honor on his behalf.
Bill Durham, a 1965 FSU grad, came up with the idea of Osceola and Renegade while he was in college.
“Since I was a kid, I had a passion and respect for Native Americans and thought it would show a great deal of respect to have someone represent Osceola,” Durham said. “The Appaloosa is a traditional Native American horse, so it fit.”
While watching the game, Tallahassee Community College student and Tribal member Daija Baxley was proud the Tribe and the princesses were involved in the festivities, but frustrated that FSU students don’t know the history behind the Tribe’s participation at FSU.
“It’s a little annoying that most students here don’t know why it is so important and not just a mascot,” Baxley said. “I wish more students knew why FSU has such a special relationship with the Tribe. They should have to take a class. It’s not just about the sports team being unbeatable.”
Regardless of the reason, the students in the stands cheered as Allegra crowned Chief Ki-mani Ward, and Cheyenne crowned Princess Taylor Knight. As the princesses left the field for the suite upstairs, the crowd cheered them on.
“I’m very proud of our girls,” said LaVonne Kippenberger, Cheyenne’s aunt.
“They’re growing closer as they go on, which is part of what the Princess program is all about; to promote camaraderie and sisterhood. It’s to help our young women help each other up.”
LaVonne was runner-up for Miss Florida Seminole about 30 years ago and she still remembers how important that camaraderie was during the days leading up to the pageant.
“When you are alone together for a few days, barriers come down and you bond,” she said. “Letting them help each other is as important today as it was 30 years ago.”
Allegra’s mother, Tammy Billie, was proud to see her daughter experience the weekend as Jr. Miss Florida Seminole.
“Watching my daughter walk on the 50-yard line was such an honor,” Billie said. “She is coming out of her shell, meeting new people and maturing. She even got to meet Gov. Scott.”
Cheyenne and Allegra have indeed forged a close bond since becoming princesses.
“My cousin Randee Osceola [Miss Florida Seminole 2017] always talked about this trip and told me stories about it,” Allegra said. “I’m so excited to share the experience with Cheyenne.”
“My partner in reign,” added Cheyenne.
The weekend went off with nary a hitch thanks to the work of the Princess Committee and Christine McCall, secretary of the committee, Miss Florida Seminole 2005 and FSU graduate, who managed everything on the ground.
“I’m extremely proud of them,” McCall said. “Even though they aren’t [FSU]students, they are here to represent the Tribe and they did a great job. The program gives them a chance to be independent young women, come out of their shells and learn to meet people and network. They stepped up to show they aren’t just princesses, they are ambassadors. They show who our people are and that unconquered spirit.”