WASHINGTON TWP. — The Porter County Fair Cutest Baby Contest attracted a "bumper crop" of beautiful bouncing babies this year.
One-hundred and fifty-seven contestants competed for the title on Saturday at the Park Place Pavilion, nearly three times the number of entries from last year, said Ashlee Duttlinger, superintendent for the event.
"This is our sixth year and the largest group to sign up. The outpouring of children is amazing. There's lots of cute babies this year," Duttlinger said.
Despite the heat, moms, dads and family members kept their cool by pushing their young stars and starlets in strollers, bouncing them in their arms or letting them run around in the limited space.
Clothing competition ensembles included cute rompers, matching bows, sandals and even cowboy boots for the little girls. While the little boys sported shorts and shirts, bow ties and fedora hats.
The youngest baby competitors were held by their parents as they stood before the audience to be judged while older toddlers, with parents at their backs, waved, walked and smiled before an appreciative crowd.
Proud grandparents, including Mike Chatwell, of Kouts, came to the fair to watch his granddaughter, Ainsley Chatwell, 9 months, compete.
"She's the winner," Chatwell said prior to the competition.
Mom Jamie Chatwell dressed Ainsley in a pink and gold dress with a matching gold bow in her hair.
"She's super cute and has a good chance to win. It's fun," Jamie Chatwell said of the competition.
Kirsten Kus, of Valparaiso, entered her blue-eyed son, Jack Kus, 17 months, in the contest because "he's a ham and loves dancing."
"I'm hoping he performs here like he does at home," Kus said.
Portage mom Nikki Ruffner entered her 2-year-old son, Vincent Perez, because of his naturally curly brown hair, which she thought would make him stand out.
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"He also knows some karate moves," Ruffner said.
The preliminary contest was held to choose a finalist in each of several age groups: 0-3 months, 3-6 months, 6-9 months, 9-12 months, 12-18 months and 18-24 months.
The winner in each of those categories, one girl and one boy, then returned for the finalist round.
Elliana Frizzell, 14 months, was the overall winner in the girls finalist round beating Ashlyn Imhof, Harper Jones, Ada Smithson, Vivian Martan and Caleigh Nelson.
Stephanie Frizzell, of Hebron, said this was the first time she had entered Elliana, dressed in a red, white and blue romper with a matching bow.
"She has the personality to light up the room and those blue eyes," Stephanie Frizzell said of her daughter.
Dierks Martin, 15 months, was the overall winner in the boys finalist round beating Miles Ford, Oliver Smith, Benley Maxey and Joshua Herron.
Barefoot, Dierks sported blue jeans, suspenders and a blue and white striped shirt for the competition.
"This was his first contest," mom Annie Martin said.
Winners from each age group received monetary prizes of $40 each, with the Grand Champion winners receiving $100 prizes.
The remainder of the entry proceeds will be donated to The Caring Place in Valparaiso, which supplies shelter and services for victims of violence and their children.
"This year we should be able to donate close to $2,000 to the Caring Place," Duttlinger said.