Baby Girls Contest gives families the opportunity to interact

Saturday, July 24, 2010 | 8:33 p.m. CDT; updated 9:08 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 24, 2010
Nichole Batson holds her baby, Brooklynn Batson, who is nearly 12 months old, during the judging of the infant's division in the Baby Girls Contest at the Boone County Fair on Saturday. The baby girls were judged based on their appearance and personality.

COLUMBIA — Little girls at the Boone County Fair crawled, waddled, jumped and danced their way through the Baby Girls Contest on Saturday.

But the competition wasn't just for the little ones.

"The parents' faces are just as much fun to watch as the kids," said Terri Fudge-McGrath, coordinator of the Little Mr. and Miss and Baby Contests. Saturday's Baby Girls Contest, which featured more than 50 girls, will be followed by the Baby Boys Contest on Sunday.

Dianne Miller of Columbia had a great-granddaughter in the competition.

"Look how happy the mommies and daddies are," she said. "The kids don't care."

When each age group of girls got on stage, the adults clambered up against a blue-curtained barricade close to the stage. Some took pictures; others pointed and clapped to get the girls' attention and tried to get them to smile and laugh. One 5-year-old waved like a beauty queen, though the youngest girls mostly played with their purple-and-green pinwheels.

Miller and an entire fan club of family members greeted 18-month-old Gracelynn Vaughan after she placed sixth in the 1- to 2-year-old competition.

"She did awesome ... a lot," said Gracelynn's 7-year-old sister, Natalie Davis. "We tried to paint her toenails, but she didn't stay for the rest." Gracelynn managed to avoid having two of her 10 toenails painted.

The competition was divided into four age brackets. The judging was then broken down into weighted sections: 15 percent based on the parents' good behavior; 35 percent based on appearance; and 50 percent based on personality.

Fudge-McGrath has coordinated the competition for the past five years. She attributed her staying power to missing her 24-year-long career working in a daycare.

She said the nature of the contest offered a little something for everyone.

"You can compete, and it's still fun to show off your kids and just have a good time," she said.

With pinwheels and smiles, all the girls have to do is look cute. But picking the cutest was a problem for some judges.

"It's the hardest thing I ever did," judge Paula Partridge said.

This year, the competition had five sponsors.

"The economy seems to really have hurt the past couple years," Fudge-McGrath said. When she first began running the competition, the contest had almost 20 sponsors, but in recent years, the numbers have decreased.

Nevertheless, she encouraged local businesses to get involved in the competitions.

"The more sponsors, the better prizes, which would draw more participants as well," she said.

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