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Braselton toddler wins 'beautiful baby' contest
Maggie Sue Romeo, 3, and her mother, Dana, of Braselton recently traveled to New York City where Maggie Sue won the “LIVE! with Regis and Kelly” Beautiful Baby Search 2010. - photo by KATIE DUNN

BRASELTON - When Maggie Sue Romeo, 3, learned she was going to New York City as a finalist in the “LIVE! with Regis and Kelly” Beautiful Baby Search 2010, all she wanted was apple juice and cheese puffs.

She returned home with a lot more.

A bubbly Maggie Sue, who sat watching “Dora the Explorer” last week, was all smiles three days after returning from a whirlwind trip to New York City where she was named the show’s 2010 beautiful baby.

“LIVE’s” Kelly Ripa and guest host Anderson Cooper announced the winner of the annual contest March 5 on the show.

Romeo was chosen out of hundreds of thousands of entries and will appear on the cover of an upcoming issue of “Parenting Early Years” magazine. The contest’s sponsor, Gerber, also awarded Romeo with a $125,000 college scholarship and a year’s supply of Gerber products.

The four other finalists also received a Gerber product stockpile and a $25,000 college scholarship.

Romeo’s mother, Dana, said she and husband Frank were “shocked” when their daughter’s name was announced. Dana Romeo submitted Maggie Sue’s photo in the contest just so she could see it posted on the show’s Web site.

“I thought it would be neat to see her in the baby gallery on the computer and that’s why I sent it in, thinking that I could show her herself on the computer and on their Web site,” Romeo said.

Now, Maggie Sue’s photo, name and video clips of her from several of last week’s shows are front and center on the site.

On March 1, the Romeos learned their daughter had been named one of the top 10 finalists in the contest. By the next afternoon, Maggie Sue, her mother and maternal grandmother, Carolyn Lane, were on a plane to New York City.

Her father, a regional vice president with VSP eyecare, joined the trio the next day.

An estimated 250,000 people voted for the top five finalists, which included Romeo.

When the toddler learned she was going to New York, her mother said she was only interested in the Gerber grub she was to receive.

“She understands that she won Gerber puffs and apple juice and she knew she got to come to New York to get apple juice,” Romeo said. “That was her big thing. When she got here, she said, ‘Now I can get my apple juice and my puffs.’”

Her parents are more excited about the college fund that is being established in their daughter’s name, however. With two other daughters, Madison, 12, and Megan, 10, Romeo said the money will help the family tremendously in the future.

When Anderson Cooper announced the winner, Romeo said she just stood there smiling at her daughter and husband. “I was just standing there because I knew they had said his (Simmons) name because I thought he would win.”

It was only when Kelly Ripa started frantically motioning for the Romeos to join Cooper and herself on stage that Romeo realized they had won.

As the shock registered on her face, Romeo mouthed, “Oh my gosh.”

When asked to name her favorite part of the whole trip, Maggie Sue didn’t name her beloved cheese puffs or apple juice, but instead said one word: “Kelly.”

Ripa, who has three children of her own, interacted and was very hands-on with each of the final five children, said Dana Romeo.

“She’s adopted Kelly as her new mom,” she joked.

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