Shannon Olznoi of Joliet said she entered her daughter Holly Jane Olznoi in the contest last year because the contest is a longstanding tradition in her family.
"My mother-in-law has been a Shorewood resident almost her whole life and she had her other grandchildren do it as they grew," Shannon said.
Because Shannon had to work the day of the contest at Shorewood Family Dental, Shannon's husband Dan dressed Holly Jane for the event and even bought her a blue Slurpee (which Shannon does not recommend, since food dyes can color the child's lips and teeth) on the way to the festival.
Shannon said she and Dan didn't tell Holly Jane much about the contest, except she might win a trophy "like her brother Rudy" had, who was a finalist one year.
But Holly Jane was not impressed with the possibility of winning.
"She was more interested in all the little prizes on the table, the little trinkets they give the kids so they will have something to do," Shannon said.
Since Holly Jane is shy and not talkative around people she doens't know ("I think it helps if they're chatty," Shannon said), Shannon stressed to her daughter the importance of smiling.
Shannon thinks Holly Jane's smile charmed the judges, which Shannon saw, since she made it to the contest, in her scrubs, but just in time.
"She gave a little half-smile and waved," Shannon said. "That was the icing on the cake."
The most important part for any competition that involves a child is to keep the pressure down and the concept of fun up. Dress the child in comfortable, cool clothes, especially for summer festival contests.
That way, the event becomes a memorable one, in a positive way, for years to come, Shannon said. Other than that, choose comfortable clothing that helps the kids feel natural.