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WINNING SMILES

Pear Blossom Festival celebrates ...

Beautiful babies are something of a family tradition for Jennifer Wilson of Central Point.

Jayden Wilson, daughter of Jennifer and Mike Wilson, was crowned Baby Blossom Saturday while big brother Hunter hopped about in a sash proclaiming him Baby Bud 2002.

If I have one the right age, I'm here, Jennifer Wilson said. It's so fun.

The 21st annual Pear Blossom Baby Contest, put on by the Soroptimists, brought 145 babies from age 5 months to 16 months to the Rogue Valley Mall Saturday morning.

— The little ones vied for prize packages that included savings bonds, gift certificates, photography packages and, of course, a chance to be in the Pear Blossom Parade.

Proud parents and adoring grandparents coaxed quick smiles, primped pretty hair and gazed into wide eyes as their tiny charges took it all in.

We're kind of partial, but we think she's the cutest, Central Point resident Suzanne O'Neill said of her 7&

189; -month-old daughter, Riley, who waved at passersby from her stroller while sucking a pacifier.

Dad Joe O'Neill said he heard about the contest at work and the family decided to give it a try.

A store clerk tipped off Jaime Jordan about the contest as soon as she saw Jordan's son's hair. Nine-month-old Koen's dandelion puff of glowing red hair stands straight out from his head.

It's just like that naturally, Jordan said. I don't do anything with it.

Whenever anybody meets him, they always mention his hair.

Although he was bested in the prettiest-hair category by Natalie Gutierrez, a little girl with long, dark locks, he didn't seem to mind.

In fact, being babies, all of the contestants seemed more interested in finding new things to put in their mouths and meeting other people just their size than winning any prizes.

The baby with the bluest eyes, Staci Peterson, a 14-month-old from Central Point, was most interested in flinging herself backward so she could hang upside down in dad's arms, even as he plotted how to record next week's parade for grandparents in Alaska.

It was so exciting when she got called back the second time, dad Roger Peterson told his wife Tammii. She's a beauty queen.

Medford City Councilman Bob Strosser, one of the six judges, said they are all winners.

It's a lot of fun and a worthwhile event, he said.

He's judged the contest several years with his wife, Phyllis Strosser. Other judges this year included KCMX radio hosts Garth and Rosemary Harrington, Trish Johnson from the JCPenney photo studio and Washington Elementary School Principal Stephanie Johnson.

The contest is a major fundraiser for the Soroptimists, a group that strives to serve women and children, said organizer Shirley Parke. All proceeds from the contest registration fees this year will be donated to La Clinica del Valle and the Children's Dental Clinic.

WINNING SMILES"aburke@mailtribune.com.

Contest winners:Boy with the quickest smile: Waylon Gillentine, son of Travis and Leanna Gillentine.Girl with the quickest smile: Megan Adams, daughter of Tina Adams and Doug McGrew.Darkest eyes: Abigail Carlson, daughter of Erik and Neely Carlson.Bluest eyes: Staci Peterson, daughter of Roger and Tammii Peterson.Chubbiest baby: Brandon Queener, son of Jessica Queener.Prettiest hair: Natalie Gutierrez, daughter of Jennifer Gutierrez.Baby Blossom: Jayden Wilson, daughter of Jennifer and Mike Wilson.Baby Bud: Joshua Wusstig, son of Nanette and Tony Wusstig.

Held by her father, Doug McGrew of Medford, Megan Adams, 1, won over judges and took the honor of Girl with the Quickest Smile Saturday for the Pear Blossom Baby Contest. Mail Tribune / Roy Musitelli - Mail Tribune Roy Musitelli