It was the face that caught their eyes.
And the smile, the outfit and independent personality that made 2-year-old Ian Pruitt of Dale City the favorite for judges in a crowded and very competitive baby contest Monday at the Prince William County Fair, judges said.
He trotted around the pavilion dressed as a farmer — to underscore the fair’s agricultural history — and impressed the judges with his outgoing personality, each of the three said.
“He had the cute face and the personality that made him look like a happy child,” said contest judge Stacey Williams.
And happy he was, running all around the pavilion, ducking under tables, playing with other children and exploring all things unknown.
He was wearing blue-striped overalls, blue leather sandals, a red bandana around his neck and a straw hat. Ian was hard-pressed to keep it on his small head, hanging it over what judge Eowana Jordan called a “precious face.” A red tag numbered 27 stuck to the boy’s back.
“I can’t believe he won,” said Ian’s mother Isabel Valencia, in surprise at her son’s victory. She entered him in the contest last year, when he made it only to the second round. He is a good contestant because “he is cute,” she said just before noticing Ian climbing through the pavilion seats with a diaper around his ankle.
Between rounds, he climbed under the bleachers, across the floor and toward other children. He climbed to the top of the seats with Valencia, to look out over the cows mooing in the stable next door.
“It’s not just because I’m his mother,” Valencia said. “But he’s the cutest baby.”
She plans on entering Ian again next year.
Monday’s winner was born at Prince William Hospital two-and-a-half months early. He is obsessed with cars and attended Monday’s demolition derby with Valencia. He behaves like a grown man in a 2-year-old’s body, his mother said.
“He has the air of a grown man,” Valencia said. He was fidgeting with his bandana early on, trying to get rid of the bright red accessory that made him stand out. Later, though, he forgot about it, resuming play.
Ian put on a different show each time he headed toward the judges’ table to say hello. He ran straight at them at one point, waved at another, was carried in Valencia’s arms and trotted like a horse.
For his cuteness, he took home a blue finalist’s ribbon, a purple winner’s ribbon, the winner’s trophy and a $25 cash prize.
Each judge said their decision was very difficult because each baby was so cute.