Baby wins photo contest

An area toddler will be featured on a North Carolina travel magazine cover after she was selected among hundreds of other children to win a photo contest.

The photograph Matt and Alicia Anderson snapped of their then 8-month-old daughter, Ava, will appear on the 2011 cover of Beach Times magazine after an online contest, where Facebook users voted for their favorite vacation photograph among eight finalists.

Matt and Alicia, who are Catawba County natives, took Ava, now 17 months old, to Oak Island beach last summer for her first trip to the seashore. They snapped a photo of Ava dressed in a floppy pink hat and black sunglasses, so they could always remember her first beach vacation. Little did they know they'll have a magazine cover to remember the trip, too.

Ava won the Facebook photo contest, with more than 659 "likes" on her picture. She edged out second place winner Chase, who also scored more than 500 votes. Voting came down to the wire. Ava and Chase each had about the same amount of votes Sunday night, when the contest was set to end Monday.

"I was really thinking we might get second," said Alicia, who is a kindergarten teacher at Balls Creek Elementary School.

But Ava's fans continued voting for her. Alicia and Matt sent messages to their friends when the contest started to encourage them to log on to Oak Island Accommodation's Facebook page and vote for Ava.

"Go Ava!" someone posted on the Oak Island Facebook page. "Cutest baby ever!"

Ava's friends and family also posted on the page regularly, encouraging everyone to vote for the cute little girl in the pink hat and glasses.

"Hoping Ava wins!" one Facebook user commented. "She is so cute!"

The comments and votes worked. The Anderson family got a call Monday at 5 p.m. to learn Ava won.

They will also receive a free two-night stay at Oak Island beach during the off-season from October through March. For the Anderson's, the upcoming beach trip couldn't come at a better time.

Ava is expecting the arrival of a little brother this summer, so a fall trip to the beach will be the perfect time for her new family of four to get away together, Alicia said.

Of course, Ava doesn't really understand that she's a soon-to-be cover girl, which is why Alicia and Matt are documenting every step of the process for her to remember one day when she's older.

"We showed her the picture and asked her who it is," Alicia said. "She says, 'A-ya,' which is how she says her name. We've saved everything for her to cherish."