By Maria-Jose Subiria
Ten girls competing in the Little Debbie Look-A-Like Contest took the stage recently in the AirTran Airways hangar at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
AirTran and Little Debbie celebrated the 50th anniversary of the snack-cake company and, along with unveiling a jet emblazoned with the Little Debbie logo earlier this month, announced that Rhea Lynne Conner, of Monroe, Tenn., was the winner of the Little Debbie Look-A-Like Contest.
Conner received a $5,000 scholarship from Little Debbie and the honor of having her picture placed on select Little Debbie snack cake cartons.
"We told her to have fun and meet nine new friends," said Amy Conner, Rhea Lynne Conner's mother.
"That's the main thing," said Tony Conner, the 7-year-old's father, about the $5,000 scholarship his daughter was awarded. "Education is so important to us, to get her through school."
According to Tony Conner, his brother-in-law learned of the contest while watching a news broadcast on TV and advised him to register his daughter.
Kimberley Kennedy, the emcee for the event in the AirTran hangar, said the contest was launched in January and within a month approximately 980 girls between the ages of 4 and 8 entered. A panel of judges narrowed the number down to 50, and finally, Little Debbie herself, Debbie McKee-Fowler, chose the top 10 finalists.
"We've got 10 of the cutest girls you've ever seen," Kennedy told the audience during the event.
Four judges agreed that Rhea Lynne Conner had similar facial features to the Little Debbie brand icon.
The judges included Eva Murray, owner and president of Kiddin' Around Models and Talent, Inc.; Megan Clementi, Miss Florida USA 2010; Gina McKinney, owner of Crimson Princess Pageants and Georgia Beauty Pageants; and Chris McKee, executive vice president of marketing and sales for McKee Foods Corporation, the distributor of Little Debbie products.
During the event, AirTran Airways and Little Debbie unveiled "Little Debbie 1," an AirTran Boeing 717 painted with the Little Debbie logo and an image of two chocolate cupcakes.
"Little Debbie is proud to partner with AirTran Airways to celebrate our 50th Anniversary," McKee said. "This specially designed AirTran Airways Boeing 717 aircraft -- Little Debbie 1 -- flying all over the country is a fantastic way to launch our 50 years as America's favorite snack cake."
Fifty cases of various Little Debbie products were donated to the Atlanta Community Food Bank during the celebration, according to Tad Hutcheson, vice president of marketing and sales for AirTran.
"Little Debbie has been a fantastic partner to work with and values a key attribute we here at AirTran Airways do as well -- quality," said Hutcheson.
In further celebration of Little Debbie's 50th anniversary, Little Debbie and AirTran will award 50 vacation packages to winning participants in the "Great American Getaway" sweepstakes, AirTran Airways officials said. The contest will end May 31.
According to AirTran, the vacation package will include two round-trip tickets to any U.S. destination the airline flies to, two nights at a Holiday Inn hotel, a two-day car rental and a $200 cash card.
"We thought it [the partnership] was a great way to celebrate Little Debbie's 50th anniversary," said Hutcheson.
On the net:
AirTran Airways: www.airtran.com
Little Debbie: www.littledebbie.com