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July 12, 2006

Little Miss Mattituck Crowned On Love Lane


By Lisa Finn

Nine of the loveliest lasses on the North Fork took to the stage last Saturday for the 29th annual Little Miss Mattituck contest.

All dressed up and perfectly coiffed, the tiny contestants, ages 6-9, met before the contest at the North Fork Bank on Love Lane to rehearse for the big event with this year's reigning Strawberry Festival Queen Kristin Zaleski.

Each of the girls, with crowns of flowers in their hair and corsages on their wrists, took turns answering questions, such as their favorite summertime activities and what career they want to pursue when they are done with elementary school.

Over the years, the little girls' responses have varied, said judge Monica Raynor, whose mother-in-law, Mary, a judge for many years, passed the torch on down to a new generation. One little girl last year wanted to be a nun, like her teacher. Another had prehistoric ambitions and said paleontology was the path for her. This year veterinarians ranked high in little girl dreams.

Coordinator Donielle Cardinale-McKinnon coached all the girls, encouraging them to speak up, loud and strong. "You all look beautiful," she said. "But that's not what this is about. This is about having fun."

The emphasis, said Cardinale-McKinnon, is on offering little girls more than just a chance to wear a pretty dress. "It's a great opportunity to increase confidence."

The contest, which is "not a beauty pageant," is judged by a child's confidence, poise and sense of self. "It's about getting up there, feeling confident and having fun."

And although this year the crown of honor went to Cassidy Bertolas, 6, Cardinale-McKinnon stressed that all the entrants wearing Little Miss Mattituck sashes were winners, including Joy Davis, 6, Carly Doorhy, 8, Elizabeth Dumlis, 9, Gabriella Hansen, 6, Victoria Ireland, 9, Savannah Rose Siejka, 8, Julianna Sluyters, 6, and Molly Smith, 8.

Each girl received identical gift bags with prizes from local Mattituck merchants including Renee's Kids' Corner, Mattituck Cinemas, Lickety Splitz, The Daily Scoop, Harbes Farm, Matt A Mar Marina, DoLittle's Restaurant, the Love Lane Sweet Shoppe, Michaelangelo's Pizza and Mattituck Florist.

Winner Bertolas won the hearts of judges when asked what she wanted to be when she grew up. "She said she wanted to be the first female president, to show that women can do great things, too," said Cardinale-McKinnon.

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