Toddlers and Tiaras-style child beauty pageants ditches Cork and Dublin events
THE boss of a contentious US child pageant company has abandoned plans to stage separate contests in Dublin and Cork next month - and will now host just one event, in Belfast.
Texas-based Universal Royalty had intended to stage three glitzy Toddlers & Tiaras-style events in total across Ireland in September, as a follow-up from their debut child beauty competition in this country last year.
But a cool response from hoteliers and venue bosses in the Republic has forced the company's boss Annette Hill to scale back her plans to just one event in Belfast on September 20.
Ms Hill said the Belfast pageant would be free for contestants to enter this time round as a goodwill gesture to make up for chaotic scenes that marred last year's event.
A Dublin hotel pulled out at the last minute and the event was eventually hosted in a much smaller venue in Castleblayney, Co Monaghan.
Dozens of angry parents stormed out of the re-arranged pageant last year, furious that organisers had left it to the last minute to inform them of the location of the new venue.
But Ms Hill vowed not to repeat the mistakes of last year and revealed she would be travelling with a much larger crew and entourage to ensure "everything runs smoothly".
She also claimed her decision not to charge contestants to participate in the Belfast pageant will leave her more than €20,000 out of pocket.
"We're just holding the one pageant in Belfast, because that's where most of the interest is from and where we had the best offer," she said.
"I'm planning to hold meet-and-greet events in Dublin and Cork, but the pageant itself will be in Belfast and we have a venue booked and other venues booked in reserve in case anything falls through.
"But I'm very confident there will be no problems this time round."
Ms Hill said that although the event is going to cost her a lot of money, she wants to do it "for the people of Ireland".
"It's costing me an arm and a leg. I'm coming over for two weeks and once all the flights and hotel is paid for, I'd say I won't have much change out of €22,000," she said.