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Four girls win Junior League's American Girl essay contest

BRADENTON — This week, four lucky girls were excited to hear that they were winners of the Junior League’s American Girl essay contest.

The fun, fashionable and inspiring American Girl doll collection is all the rage with pre-teens throughout the country. And with the doll line’s exclusive trademark fashion show coming to the Bradenton Municipal Auditorium on March 6, the Junior League and the Bradenton Herald decided to team up to throw a contest. Our four winners received two free tickets to the fashion event.

Contestants ages 7 to 12 were asked to write a short essay about their favorite American Girl and how her story inspired them. Each American Girl doll has a story that’s more than being a pretty doll in the crowd. Their tales feature how the dolls — who come from various backgrounds — have overcome obstacles in their life while learning how to live a fun, fulfilling, girly lifestyle. That might be why they attract such a huge following.

“When you say American Girl — any mom of a girl age 5 to 12 years old, their eyes light up,” said Erin Novarro, one of the Junior League judges from the contest.

The fashion show is the highlight for any serious American Girl doll collector. Seats typically sell at the event fast.

Winner Abbie Owens, 9, of Bradenton, will be bringing her doll, Kit Kittredge with her to the show. Her bond with Kit has been two years strong. The Bashaw Elementary student said she was a gift from her grandmother.

“I like to dress it up and make it look like me and stuff,” Abbie said. Fellow winner Olivia Johnson, 10, of Bradenton Community Christian School, enjoys the accessories that come with her doll, which also looks just like her. Olivia said she’s looking forward to seeing all the clothes from the fashion show.

Essay winner Shelby Freshwater will be traveling all the way from McDonough, Ga., to attend the fashion show. Her grandparents reside in Bradenton.

“I’m really pumped,” the 7-year-old said about coming. “I want to see the dolls dressed in pretty dresses.”

Shelby’s been a fan of the dolls since she was 4. In fact, last summer she and her mom flew to New York to get a set of the American Girl Bitty Twins. It’s been her favorite place ever since.

“I wanted to go there today,” she said of the shop in New York.

Brooke Lewis, 11, of Bradenton, also won, but could not be reached for comment.

In addition to Novarro, judges for the contest included Tracey Rosa, of the Junior League; Herald executive editor Joan Krauter; and Herald features editor Jana Morreale.