When it comes to gum, young kids prove to be old hands at creating breathtaking pieces

Rogue Valley kids who participated in a bubble gum contest at local Wal-Marts could be blown away by a &

36;10,000 prize.

Hundreds of kids huffed and puffed Saturday in the fourth annual Dubble Bubble bubble-blowing contest at the Medford Wal-Mart on Crater Lake Highway. About 200 children participated at the Wal-Mart in Talent. The contest draws about a million kids nationwide every year, according to a product spokeswoman.

At the Medford store, Eagle Point 12-year-old Melissa Rohrbacker blew away the competition with a nearly 12-inch bubble. She received a red and white Dubble Bubble baseball cap, the contest's official bubble meter and a one-pound bag of gum.

I always knew she was full of hot air, said Melissa's father, Ken Rohrbacker.
— I'm always buying her gum, said her mother, Robin.

Melissa practices at school where she's gotten in trouble for chewing her favorite watermelon-flavored Bubblicious, she said. But she proved her prowess last year by winning Little Butte Elementary's annual Halloween bubble-blowing contest.

Melissa wasn't daunted by Dubble Bubble's notoriously jaw-breaking texture. Anyone can blow big bubbles with the little lump of pink rubber after they chew the sugar out, she said. Kids at the Medford store chewed their way through about seven pounds of gum, said promoter Betty Dalrymple.

I couldn't believe these kids, Dalrymple said.

At the Talent store, Cassie and Jack Shaw chewed on the idea of participating in the contest for about 10 minutes before their gum was pliable enough to perform. Jack, 10, produced a baseball-sized bubble while his 8-year-old sister blew one barely bigger than a bottle cap.

Ooh, that's hard, Cassie said.

Both learned to blow bubbles from their dad, an active chewer, said their mother, Kathy Shaw. The family takes home two one-pound bags of Dubble Bubble every week, she said.

Six finalists will be selected from competitions at the 2,800 Wal-Mart stores nationwide to compete for the national title in August. The winner will receive a &

36;10,000 U.S. savings bond and will present &

36;5,000 to the Children's Miracle Network hospital in his or her hometown. The five runners-up will win savings bonds for &

36;5,000 and award &

36;1,000 to children's hospitals.

Melissa's bubble was just over an inch smaller than the orb blown by last year's champion 12-year-old Britney Radford of Tulsa, Okla. Radford has since blown bubbles with Jay Leno on The Tonight Show.