JERSEY SHORE - Locals lined the streets to see floats, Tiadaghton Queen candidates and entrants for the Babies Sweetheart Contest during the Jersey Shore Town Meeting and the annual parade held Wednesday evening.
The celebration kicked off with a parade with colorful floats from local community organizations, classic cars and an array of fire trucks and ambulances that rolled down the street and delighted young and old alike. Children from the crowd lunged forward to catch candies thrown by those in the parade and were awed by the flashing lights of numerous emergency vehicles, including Jersey Shore's own Independent Hose Co.
A wide variety of imaginative floats were created for this year's parade. The Crossroads Community Church built a rolling castle, which delighted those in attendance. An island-themed float created by the Jersey Shore Swim team, and a pirate ship float from the Antes Creek Marina Yacht Club also were among the crowd favorites.
A teeny-tiny queen and king were crowned immediately after the parade at the Town Meeting stage during the final round of the Babies Sweetheart Contest. This year, Kassidy Sumcox was crowned queen, while Brennan Brown took home the king's crown. Tayvian Yothers and Mason Lucas were chosen as first runners up, while Catherine Hill and Jeremy Showers were chosen as the second runners up. Third runners up were Mikela Rose Leonarol and Christian Haghes.
Long-time announcer Sally Dershem explained that the children were judged based on locals' opinions. Those in Jersey Shore were invited to vote for their favorite child by dropping cash into cans placed at local businesses in the community.
"This is our 46th year of doing this contest, and people really seem to love it. My favorite part is seeing how happy their parents are after the judging. Even though we crown a king and queen, everyone is really a winner here," Dershem said.
Tiadaghton Queen candidates waited nervously in the wings as the Sweetheart contest came to a conclusion. Ten days ago, the ladies were asked a series of questions during the annual Queen's Tea. However, they had to wait until after the parade to find out who would take home the crown.
Taylor Koch's eyes welled with tears as she accepted the Tiadaghton Queen crown and sash. Though she was the youngest competitor in this year's competition, Koch, 16, has big plans to contribute to her community.
"I really want to make this town a better place," Koch said.
Koch mentioned that she would like to volunteer at ManorCare Heath Services and plans on continuing the story time with a princess program that was started by last year's queen, Alyssa Fink.
"I really like the idea of going down and reading to the kids at the local library. I think that is something that we should keep going," Koch said.
It was a nerve-wracking 10 days, Koch said, as she waited to hear who the winner would turn out to be.
"I wanted to win but I wasn't expecting to win because all the girls are such wonderful people. I was very nervous right before the judging," she said.
Local Anita Ulmer believes the judges made the right choice.
"This girl is very, very intelligent. She has one of the sweetest personalities you can imagine, and I hope she never changes," Ulmer said.