Eight year-old Vany Cardoso - the newest Little Miss Dorchester- was just one of the 28 girls who dazzled the judges and audience that gathered at the First Parish Church last Saturday, for the annual contest. The number one goal of the event, which has been part of the annual Dorchester Day celebrations for decades now, is to "have fun and help girls build confidence in public speaking," says Annissa George, the event coordinator.
"This contest is not designed to find the prettiest girl in Dorchester, but to give girls ages seven to nine a chance to present themselves," said George. "We seek the one with the most charm, stage presence and personality. In the past few years I added the short answer essay portion to give a little more substance to the contest."
At the start of the contest each contestant is asked a personal question such as their favorite subjects in school, after school or weekend extracurricular activities. The girls are later called back onto the platform to answer essay questions such as, What is your favorite place in Dorchester to visit? What do you enjoy most about spring, summer, fall, or winter in Dorchester? Describe your most memorable moment in Dorchester? How would you make Dorchester a better place?
The contestants amazed the crowd with their outgoing personalities as each stepped up on stage. Nine-year old Janaya Dailey, a third grader at St. Gregory's Elementary School, confidently spoke of how she would make Dorchester a better place.
"I believe I can stop the violence and start the peace by having marches up and down the streets to show people that do use guns that using guns is not right," Dailey said.
Krystal Thorpe, 7, is another young girl who aspired to improve her Dorchester neighborhood.
"The way I would make Dorchester a better place is to make parks for the children with asthma and I would plant flowers and trees so Dorchester can be a beautiful place." Thorpe is currently in the second grade at the Michael J. Perkins Elementary School.
Stacia Aguirre, 8, currently in the third grade at Boston Renaissance Charter School, articulately expressed why she enjoys summer in Dorchester.
"I enjoy going to the Little House, because I get to swim and travel to different places. We also play outside in the park where the flowers are blooming. The best thing about the summer is my birthday. We have cake, ice cream, candy bags, and presents. And we get to have it all outside."
The newly crowned Vany Cardoso also shared what she loved most about Dorchester during the spring season.
"What I enjoy most are the flowers and the birds. I like playing in the park and planting flowers in the garden." Cardoso is currently in the second grade at Edward Everett Elementary.
Though the contest drew a large crowd and several members of the press, Annissa George claims the event has lost some popularity over the years - causing a decrease in participation.
"Girls are more involved in athletic activities than they were in past years. Many misinterpreted the contest as a beauty pageant. I cannot stress enough this is not the case. Since the essay portion was added many parents have commented that they like this and will allow their girls to participate."
This year's Little Miss Dorchester received a savings bond from Mount Washington Bank, a trophy, a bicycle and helmet, dinner at Venezia Restaurant, and a gift certificate for hairstyle at Astra Salon. First runner up Paige McEachern and second runner up Kaysea Ruffin also received trophies and bonds from Mount Washington Bank. Each girl received gift bags that included gift certificates to restaurants such as: Blarney Stone, McKenna's Café, Donovan's, Gerard's, and Avenue Grille. There are free ice cream coupons for the Ice Cream Smith and the Sugar Bowl. Contestants can also win gift certificates to stores like Fancy Nails and Sew-Fisticated Fabrics.
George gave special thanks to Representative Marty Walsh who purchased the bike and helmet, and Representative Maureen Feeney and Representative Jack Hart who made cash donations to fill the goodie bags.
"I would like to have more girls enter the contest and increase the number of volunteers to judge and help for the day," said George.
"I am also in the planning stages for Miss Teen Dorchester." Among the contestants who participated on Saturday were Breena Baird, Olivia Baldassari, Jennifer Browne, Hannah Buckley, Diana Canto, Ana Cardona, Lynh Chau, Kaileen Cotter, Lauren Coughlin, Kerri Doherty, Maeghan Driscoll, Rebekah Ferrini, Erin Guerard, Julianne Hunt, Niamh Kerr, Yffka Lavaud, Shannon Mannion, Cindy Nguyen, Hannah Pittman, Briana Pugliese, Hannah Stockbridge, and Caroline Tevnan.
Any girls interested in participating in 2008 Little Miss Dorchester can contact Annissa George at (617) 474-0797.