Babies in bow-ties, babies in popcorn decorated sneakers, and babies in fancy dresses invaded the William E. Urschel Pavilion on Wednesday night. As an official pre-Popcorn Fest event Valparaiso’s most darling babies gathered together for the annual Cutest Baby Contest.
The Cutest Baby contest has been a compliment to the Popcorn Festival for many years. It’s a well honored tradition that around eight years ago REGIONAL federal credit union decided to sponsor to keep the event thriving for families to let their kids be a part of something special. Three of the judges for the contest were REGIONAL employees - all who were thrilled to be won over by the adorable contestants.
“REGIONAL is really excited to give back to the community and we love doing things like this - especially this event that’s so special and is such a huge thing within the Valpo community,” REGIONAL Senior Vice President of Branch Development and Business Banking Analisa Warring noted. “We’re one big family over at REGIONAL, and this contest is a great extension of that. We’re happy to going strong on year number eight and these kids are cuter than ever.”
Many of the parents and spectators of Wednesday’s contest either had kids entered in the contest in the past or were participants themselves when they were babies - which really shows that the contest is truly an honored tradition in the Valpo community. Valparaiso Events Executive Director Tina St. Aubin noted that the contest has held up as a much loved event for many years, and one that is special to her because her son won the contest over a decade ago.
“We still look back on those pictures of when he won, so if it offers families good memories we’re happy to continue this as a tie-in to Popcorn week,” St. Aubin stated. “Speaking for myself, I remember that it was something my husband and I entered our son in to have a bit of fun and it was. The families get to ride in the parade and get to tell everyone that their baby was named the cutest. This is an event that is so great for our community to have.”
As the judges prepared for the contest it was full-out baby pandemonium at the pavilion. The group of girls and boys who took the stage were contest finalists - a group that made it past the preliminaries, hosted during the opening of the pavilion a month prior. Each participant walked to their best abilities across the stage waving and giving kisses to the judges for their introduction, and then were individually announced to show off their cuteness while the parents told the audience a little bit about their baby. Eventually, after the judges tallied up their votes and chose a boy and a girl as the victors of the contest. Adam Pequet’s 10 month old daughter Kinsley took home the Cutest Girl title, and he explained that his family entered the contest to make a new and great memory for Popcorn Fest.
“We’ve been Valpo residents our whole life and we didn’t get the chance to do this contest with our first child. We were home this summer and thought why not give it a shot. Now she has a sash and is incredibly happy and smiley,” Pequet stated. “The Popcorn Fest is something that we are a part of every year but now we’re a part of something new. It’s a honored tradition in our family and now our kids get to be a part of it with us.”
In the end the Cutest Baby contest isn’t about winning or gaining the title of Cutest Baby, it’s an event that lets families grow a lasting memory for them to tell their kids for years to come. There were so many adorable and happy kids that walked across the stage on Wednesday night, and yes two of them won the title, but in the end no one walked away with a loss. When there’s so much happiness and love in the room, how can anyone lose?