'Diaper derby' held at Clements' in Portsmouth

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PORTSMOUTH — Charlie Hanos was tearing down the multicolored jigsaw play mat, leaving his opponents in the dust.

But then, just inches from the finish line, he stopped short and looked around.

"Why are all these people making so much noise?" the infant's bemused expression seemed to say.

It happens every year at Clements' Marketplace's annual baby crawling contest, said Tracy Anthony, the store's general manager.

“You see some kids where they race, and then all of a sudden right before the finish line they sit there because everyone’s clapping and getting loud," she said before the start of Saturday's race. "They sit there and look around at everybody, so it’s very funny. You get a few characters here and there.”

The store has been hosting the race for 18 years now.

“It was just something that (longtime Clements employee) Jerry Bloom had come up with, to create some excitement and fun," she said. "Back then, one of the diaper companies had sponsored it, and now they don’t do too much with it. But we kept it going anyway.”

Six babies were signed up Saturday, but there have been as many as 12 contestants in other years, Ms. Anthony said.

Parents have their own strategy for getting their babies to crawl.

"Usually there’s one person on the start and one person at the end — a family member, friend or something — and they try to coax them to the finish line," she said.

Despite his finish-line freeze during an early heat, Charlie ended up winning it all in this this year's contest and took home the top prize — a basketful of baby products. The store also gives away prizes for the runners-up and holds a free raffle for all.

“It's just a little token of our thanks for participating," said Ms. Anthony.

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.