TV remotes. Key rings. A mirror. A dancing blue pig. A stuffed chicken. Rattles. Smartphones. And, by far the parental favorite -- yellow canisters of Gerber Graduates Puffs.
These are items parents used as bait to try to lure their babies down their race lanes at the first Diaper Derby at Smith Haven Mall in Lake Grove on Sunday. It was hard to tell which was funnier -- the crawling babies, or their parents, goofily holding the items out toward the infants and shaking them, cajoling their babies to be first to cross the finish line.
The TV remote worked for 11-month old Riely Autera of Lake Ronkonkoma, who sped down the lane to mom Kathy, who dangled it before him during the second heat of the competition. “He’s obsessed with it at home. If we could bring something to lure the baby -- the remote was the obvious choice,” she said.
Close to 60 babies competed in 10 heats that culminated in semifinals and then the finale. Most babies brought entourages that included Mom and Dad, older brothers and sisters, grandparents, aunts and uncles. More than a hundred people gathered in the mall’s center court for the two-hours of festivities, jamming the area with strollers.
“It surpassed my expectations,” said Ashley Jacobsen, director of marketing and business development for the mall. She had expected to have five heats, but so many families signed up that the number was doubled to 10. Jacobsen said the mall will likely make the Diaper Derby an annual event.
Babies sped out of the gate on a mat with colorful lanes, then decided to sit down and look around. Some went two-thirds of the way, then turned around to crawl back to Daddy at the starting line. More than one stopped to feel and consider the “Kiddie Academy” logo embossed on the mats, to the chagrin of their parents.
Mom Gladys Harm of Mastic Beach, who used 10-month-old T.J. Forster’s security blanket with the plush Simba lion head to lure him down his aisle, was surprised when he instead crossed into a competitor’s lane, more interested in that child’s dancing blue pig.
The free event was co-hosted by Dana DiDonato & Jayson Prim of WBLI Radio’s “Dana and Jayson in the Morning” show. First, second and third-place winners got trophies, as well as prizes that included a $100 gift certificate to Bobby’s Burger Palace, $50 gift certificates to The Children’s Place, and discounts and freebies from The Little Gym and Ivy League Day Camp and School. Competitors had to be 12 months or younger and not yet walking.
The first-place prize was nabbed by Serena Marra, 9 months, of Commack, who seemed to just want to get to Mommy. “She booked as soon as my husband let her go,” said mom Lauren of Serena’s winning performances.
“It’s cool,” said Niko Seda of Miller Place, whose little brother Luca Martinez, 11 months, made it to the final rounds. “You’re racing babies. I never heard of that.”