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Top kids crowned in Little Mr. and Miss Farmer contest

CHINA GROVE — Wearing his favorite cowboy boots, Jacob Morrison drew the crowd’s attention on Saturday morning as he did donuts in his miniature John Deere tractor under a big tent in Hanna park.

His showman-like display won over the hearts of the judges and earned him a trophy in the 3-5 year-old division of the Little Mr. and Miss Farmer contest during China Grove’s 40th annual Farmers Day. The third time was, in fact, the charm for Morrison, who competed in the contest twice before.

The secret to Jacob’s success on Saturday?

“I guess he was just being a confident little farmer,” said Jayme Morrison, his proud mother.

Morrison was one of 23 toddlers who competed in the contest, which is organized by Atrium Health and has been going on as long as Farmers Day itself.

“It’s probably one of the most fun things about Farmers Day and it’s such a good tradition,” said Sherry Wilson, a senior associate of community engagement and corporate responsibility with Atrium Health. “It really is an honor for us to host.”

Every contestant went home with a ribbon and a gift bag full of Atrium Health goodies, but the top boy and girl in each of the four categories also took home shiny gold tractor trophies. Lee Edward Ealey Jr. took first in the boys 1-2 year-old division. Sunny Rae Turner claimed the top prize in the girls 1-2 year-old division. Morrison was first in the boys 3-5 division. Olivia Smith was the cream of the crop in the girls 3-5 division.

Choosing which toddlers walked away with a trophy was difficult for China Grove Mayor Charles Seaford, who was one of six judges on the panel.

“Every one of them should have won,” Seaford said.

Seaford was joined on the panel by Salisbury Mayor Karen Alexander, Rowan County Chamber of Commerce Board Chairman Bob Honeycutt, Rowan-Salisbury Schools Superintendent Tony Watlington, Atrium Health’s Vice President of Administration Tri Tang and Landis Mayor Meredith Smith.

Bringing in judges from outside of China Grove, Seaford said, gave them an opportunity to experience the town.

The judges scored each candidate on a scale of 1-10 in three different metrics, including originality, maintaining the Farmers Day theme and a judge’s discretion category.

While there were fewer participants this year than in years past, Wilson said, there was plenty of spunk to go around. Every contestant was dressed in their best farmer getup, including overalls, sun dresses, straw hats, boots and plenty of denim. 

Agriculture-related props were also utilized by many contestants. One girl pulled a little red wagon filled with stuffed barn animals. Another brought with her a basket of wooden eggs. An especially entertaining contestant toted a white duck that she dropped on the ground and danced around while smiling for the judges.

“It was very cool to see the kids have fresh corn, or fresh flowers, or whatever they may have had in their basket or pulling in their wagon,” Smith said. “One boy was pulling hay with his John Deere tractor and that was very cool.”

Although some contestants were timid, clinging to the legs of their parents, others galloped before the judges to blow kisses or wave.

“It was fun to see all of their personalities,” Smith said. “Some of them were a little shy at first, but then they kind of came to once they got past the crowd and could see our faces. It was fun to see them open up.”

Wilson said the contest hasn’t changed much since Atrium Health began organizing it seven years ago. But this year Atrium Health invited 2021 North Carolina Watermelon Queen Anna Young to co-host the competition with Steve Monday, who is chief forecaster for Rowan County Weather.

The full list of contestants who competed in the Little Mr. and Miss Farmer contest is as follows: Parker Coe, Maeve Abbate, Stella Abbate, Audrey Hill, Maicyn Arnette, Charleston Donaldson, Kyley Shiane Rogers, Kai McCravy, Joanna Pinyan, James Pinyan, Anna Kate Kramer, Aubrey Lewis, Everett Stubbs, Emilia Mabrito, Montgomery Sigmon, Cameron Alley, Skylar Miller, Joshua Stewart, Julie Morrison, Jacob Morrison, Lee Edward Ealey Jr., Sunny Rae Turner and Olivia Smith.

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