Frills, flowers and bows dominated the annual Tiny King and Queen contest.
By JENNINE ZELEZNIK
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- Gleaming in the waning sunlight, patent-leather shoes winked from beneath the frilly dresses of the pint-size contestants.
Their parents, loaded with cameras and video equipment, patted down hair and fixed wrinkled socks while giving last-minute advice at the annual Tiny King and Queen contest at the Italian-American Heritage Fest.
"Don't forget to wave."
"Blow kisses -- you're so cute when you blow kisses."
A wail pierced the pre-show chatter. Kaila DeChristofaro, 3, resplendent in a ruffled, bright pink dress and matching socks, was not going up on that stage.
"Just having a nervous day, I guess," her mom, Betsy, said, cradling the girl in her arms. "She had fun at practices, but not here."
Kaila, of Girard, buried her head against her mother's arm.
First-timer: A few feet away from Kaila, Gina Maria Chepak waited while her mother, Gloria, straightened her skirt.
"This is Gina's first Italian fest," Chepak, of Youngstown, said while Gina clung to her father. "But she's been in several other pageants."
Gina, brown curls surrounding her cherubic face, tugged her mother's shirt.
"I want to ride rides," she said plaintively.
"I wanna ride rides, too," chimed in Elissa Park, 3, standing next to Gina. Her dress, cream with tiny red rosettes, swirled around her legs.
"Soon, baby," said her mother, Lori Ann of Niles. "Look, you're about to start -- get in line again."
Parents gave one last hug, then hurried to find the best place to watch their little royals -- right in front of the stage.
The boys: Backstage again, the Tiny King contestants waited for their turn to cross the stage.
Hands behind his back, Cameron Nastasi, 3, scuffed his toe in a patch of dirt. His mother, Shannon, explained that the boys would be judged on "charm."
"Are you going to blow kisses?" his dad, Shawn, asked.
"Yes," Cameron replied, bright brown eyes shining. "To mommy."
Done with her first walk across the stage, Francesca Frazeskos, 3, hurried over to her father, George.
"She's not stage-frightened at all," Frazeskos said, grinning at his little princess in her frilly white dress.
"Daddy!" Francesca ran toward the back of the stage. "We're going back up again!"
Onstage, the kids paraded past one more time, some scared stiff, others waving happily.
Francesca, her short curls bouncing, walked right up to the front of the stage, waving and blowing kisses to her dad.
"I think we could do this every year," he said gruffly. "It would be nice."