Shake those keys and tickle those tummies, do anything to get those babies to smile. It could ultimately lead to a $25,000 savings bond.
That was the scene at the Most Beautiful Baby Contest at Columbia Mall on Feb. 25. Parents paid $40 to enter a child between the ages of newborn to 6. By 5 p.m., a few eager parents had already signed up their babies. By 6:30 p.m., the judging began, and it was standing-room only, a much better turnout than last time, some experienced parents said.
Although no makeup was allowed, cute outfits were, and styles ranged from cool casual to chic formal. Little boys were in everything from jeans to white tuxedos, and little girls were in everything from jeans to princess dresses and curled hair.
“I just think every little boy needs to be in white tails,” said Patti Kean, a grandmother from Columbia who ordered her grandson’s outfit online. Hayden, 19 months, sported a green pacifier and sunglasses to complement the outfit.
The judging is based on the appearance and personality of the child. Children go one by one onto the stage, where they do what they can to get the attention of the judges.
Judges are volunteer parents of former winners. They are trained by the contest organizers to judge facial features and personality, said Sandee Berger, events coordinator for New Star Discovery. Judges don’t take off points for missing teeth, scratches or bumps, Berger said, because they are looking for “the natural child.”
Although some baby beauty contests require performances, the Most Beautiful Baby Contest simply requires that children go on stage and be themselves. Parents were welcomed to go along, and often did, to get those personalities to shine.
Babies and more
Younger babies smiled, giggled and cooed. Some who had just learned to walk wobbled around on stage. The older kids danced, put on a comedy show or simply smiled and waved.
Snacks, toys and walks were also a necessity for parents to keep their kids in a good mood while waiting to go on stage. Of course, all the excitement and the long day left some kids bouncing off the walls and some asleep during the intermission, which allowed time for the judges to make their decisions.
Kameron Silleck, 10 months, a first-timer to the baby beauty contest, slept through his award. He was the winner of the 8 months to 14 months age group. His mother Jami Silleck said she would tell him all about it.
Moms, dads, grandmas, grandpas, aunts, uncles, brothers and sisters all were at the contest.
Many parents were first-timers who had seen the signs in the mall and decided to enter their beautiful babies. Others saw advertisements for the contest in local newspapers and traveled to Columbia from other towns, such as Versailles. Some children who were veterans of the beauty contest scene traveled farther distances.
Anthony Cappa, 3, traveled with his mother Brandy from the state of Nevada. She heard about the contest from Anthony’s talent agency in St. Louis. Anthony, who was the winner of the 3- to 4-year-old age group of the boys, has won many other similar beautiful baby contests, such as America’s Most Beautiful Baby.
There are six age groups in which to enter a child: zero to 7 months, 8 to 14 months, 15 to 23 months, 24 to 35 months, 3 to 4 years and 5 to 6 years. There were other optional categories for which parents could pay $5 to enter their child for another possible win. The categories included prettiest eyes, sweetest smile, personality plus and angel face.
No one walked away empty-handed. All contestants won a trophy. Other awards were crowns for the little girls, victory medallions for the little boys and a photo shoot with a professional photographer. The four runners-up in each age division won a paid way to the statewide contest, which will be held over Memorial Day weekend in Springfield.
At state, among many other awards and toys, a $1,000 savings bond is awarded. If a child is chosen to go to the finals, savings bonds worth $5,000, $10,000, and $25,000 are awarded.
Samantha Slinker, 5, of Columbia won the $25,000 savings bond in 2002. Samantha was not in this year’s contest but did show up for a guest appearance.
The Most Beautiful Baby Contest happens twice a year at Columbia Mall.
New Star Discovery has been in business for 20 years and now holds regional contests in 31 states. When the company began, it was in three states, said owner Colleen Adams. She emphasized that New Star Discovery likes to make all of its contests, from regionals to nationals, fun family events.