IT WAS a clear case of baby love when our readers cast their eyes on little cuties Melissa Aaron and Shannon Parker.
For we can now reveal that they are are the winners of the Observer Baby of the Year 2004 contest. The pair beat off competition from nine other finalists in our biggest-ever poll, clocking up a staggering 926 votes between them.
Melissa, who will celebrate her first birthday next Friday, won the section for babies aged six to 18 months. She lives in Lodge Street, Accrington, with her parents Kevin, a butcher with Libbertons in Accrington, and Suzanne, a housewife.
The family are no strangers to success in the competition, as both Melissa's brother Jake, now five, and sister Jessica, three, have been winners in previous years.
Suzanne said: "I am absolutely delighted - there were a lot of babies this year and I was really nervous about it. It is a lovely way to celebrate Melissa's first birthday."
For Shannon, who lives with mum Rachel Lofthouse in Lord Street, Oswaldtwistle, it was a case of second time lucky as she narrowly missed out on a place in the final last year.
This time, the two-year-old clocked up hundreds of votes to win the section for toddlers aged between 18 months and three years.
Rachel, a care assistant at White Ash Brook Nursing Home in Oswaldtwistle, said: "I really can't believe it. I wasn't expecting it at all and I am so pleased."
Coming second in the baby category was Simone Ellson, 17 months, of Mansion Street South, Accrington, followed by Lydia Wilcock, 15 months, of Burnley Road, Accrington.
In the toddler category, second place went to Cameron Whelan, two years, of Owen Street, Accrington, with Kira Pennington, 34 months, of Fielding Lane, Oswaldtwistle, coming third. More than 200 babies were originally entered in the competition.
The two winners will each receive a 20" by 16" framed wall portrait worth £300, donated by the competition's co-sponsors, the Garth Dawson Studio, plus a £50 cheque.]]