The night before the 2004 Little Miss Mattituck contest, Shannon Sheridan-Chiaro’s mother didn’t find her rehearsing. She found her playing video games.
“She had to drag me out of the house,” Ms. Sheridan-Chiaro recalled during Saturday’s Little Miss Mattituck reunion. “She told me ‘Let’s go — you need to rehearse,’ but I wanted to play video games instead.”
Kristin Haas, the 1991 Little Miss Mattituck winner, also had to be encouraged by her mother picking out an outfit was a tedious task.
“Blue and white floral peplum-styled shirt and white bicycle shorts with lace,” she said. “I have a very vivid memory of that outfit.”
But during the reunion, which took place at the Mattituck Chamber of Commerce’s 40th annual Old Fashioned Street Fair on Love Lane, Ms. Sheridan-Chiaro and Ms. Haas said they’ve grown to appreciate how the annual event brings out the best of the community.
“It’s really nice that we’re all coming back to see the other Little Miss Mattitucks,” said Ms. Sheridan-Chiaro, who lives in Moriches. “It’s a hometown gathering. When I’ve been away for so long, it’s nice to come back and see familiar faces again.”
Ms. Haas, who lives in Laurel, said she’s also glad to be a part of the contest’s first-ever reunion.
“It was a big debacle, but, in the end, it was great and I felt very confident,” she recalled about having to get ready for the event as a child. “I never thought I would be back here reliving a pageant from when I was 6 years old. But it’s such a fun, small town community, so I’m very happy to do it.”
Former Little Miss Mattitucks, as well as this year’s contestants and their parents, enjoyed waiting in air conditioning at Capital One Bank on Love Lane just prior to the festivities.
Chamber president Donielle Cardinale organized the girls and boys into their places with numbered tags as former chamber president Terry McShane gathered sashes. They also provided each contestants with a gift bag full of goodies provided by local vendors and sponsors.
“I’ve been doing this for many years because they [the children] are all so great,” Ms. Cardinale said about why she enjoys organizing the event. “It gives them a sense of self-confidence.”
Nineteen former Little Miss Mattitucks gathered on stage as the event’s first winner, Tess (Nopper) Bannon, introduced them.
“I used to babysit you,” she told 1985 Little Miss Mattituck winner Karen Orlowski Yacono.
Ms. Yacono said while she has started her own family in Connecticut, Mattituck will always have a special place in her heart.
“I absolutely love coming back — it’s a great community,” she said.
As 2015 Little Miss Mattituck winner Katherine Meringer walked to the stage, Ms. Bannon got a little choked up.
“I held her when she was a baby,” Ms. Bannon explained. “I used to call her ‘Katie Cupcake.’”
Many of the former winners started their own families and careers locally, including 1986 Little Miss Mattituck winner Jennifer Case. She teaches special education for the Greenport school district and her son, Jackson, participated in this year’s Little Mister Mattituck contest. Jennifer Shipman, who won the crown in 1994, is married to Jonathan Shipman, owner of Shamrock Tree Company in Mattituck. The couple has 7-month-old twins.
Ms. Bannon, who won in 1978 at age 7, described the annual event as a “celebration of the community’s successes.”
The Wading River social worker recalled being excited about participating in the event as a child and remembers having fun getting her hair done at Michelle’s Beauty Salon in Mattituck just prior to the competition.
“I was so shocked when I was picked because, at that age, you don’t feel like people pay attention to you,” she said. “It’s about kindness and friendship — not beauty.”
Seventeen girls participated in this year’s Little Miss Mattituck contest, with 6-year-old Hannah Boyd of Cutchogue taking home the crown.
Ms. Cardinale asked each contestant what they wanted to be when they grow up, their favorite animal and most treasured summer activity. Hannah said she wants to be “a teacher and a mom” and loves spending time with her friends and family during the summer. She added her favorite animal is a dog.
Hannah’s twin brother, Alexander, participated in the Little Mister Mattituck contest and danced on stage for the cheering crowd. He told Ms. Cardinale he wants to be a firefighter when he grows up.
The twins’ mother, Lisa, said she’s proud her children participated in the event because it centers around the community’s spirit.
“I’m so excited for Hannah — she’s been so busy and having fun with this,” Ms. Boyd said, adding her daughter also participates in Girl Scouts.
Prior to passing on the crown, last year’s Little Miss Mattituck, Livia Perrin, gave the winner some advice.
“You’re going to be doing a lot of parades,” she said.
The Little Mister Mattituck contest, which started 10 years ago, had 12 boys compete this year. Maxwell Fanning, 6, of Mattituck won the 2017 trophy.
Maxwell told Ms. Cardinale he wants to become a paleontologist so he can find fossils of a new dinosaur and name it “Maxrector.”
Hundreds of visitors took advantage of the sunny weather to enjoy shopping, food from dozens of local vendors and raffle prizes. Organizers said they were pleased with the turnout and noted more vendors featured homemade artisan goods than in previous years. The majority of proceeds raised during the annual event benefit the community, including scholarships for students.
Congressman Lee Zeldin presented the Mattituck Chamber of Commerce a proclamation to recognize the group’s dedication to the community. He also praised the Mattituck Fire Department Rescue Squad for its quick response in treating a contestant who fainted on stage.
Organizers attributed the success of the first-ever Little Miss Mattituck reunion to Mattituck native Susan Fisher Tyler’s efforts of promoting it through social media. Ms. Bannon said she was excited to participate in the reunion and reminisce with friends and family. One afternoon last week, she stopped at Love Lane Kitchen for lunch and was pleasantly surprised to see a lot of familiar faces around the neighborhood.
“Every time you visit, it’s a reunion,” she said.
While she’s moved on from life under the crown, the proud grandmother said she keeps in touch with the annual event by keeping tabs on who the latest winner is.
“Every year, you look,” she said. “For the rest of your life, you’re going to check to see who won.”
Top photo: Tess Bannon and Hannah Boyd. (Credit: Jen Nuzzo)