Jo Anne Embleton
Jacksonville Daily Progress
Eyeing their painted baby bumps, the judge began chuckling, causing the small audience to laugh, too.
“Oh, they're very creative,” Jacksonville Police Det. Javier Guerra told the mothers-to-be, then moved closer for a better look at their “entries.”
Guerra had the honors of judging a “Painted Belly Contest” sponsored Friday by the office of Dr. Charles Burke, a local OB/Gyn who created the contest several years ago when a patient planted the idea in his head during a prenatal check-up.
“She said, 'Doctor, my skin has been turning orange,' and her mom was with her, saying, 'Yeah, doctor, you really should look at it.' It was right at Halloween, but I didn't catch on. So she pulls up her shirt, and there it is,” he said, laughing as he pointed to a photo he had of his patient, who had a giant pumpkin painted on her stomach by her mother.
“She surprised him, caught him off-guard when she lifted that shirt,” laughed office manager Judy Martin. “But we loved the idea and thought, 'We could do that. Our patients would do that.'”
This is the fourth year Burke's practice has hosted the event, which is alternated between the holidays of Christmas and Halloween, though an Easter contest is considered being added into the rotation, Martin said.
“Last year's winner had a Christmas package painted on her belly, and carried a wrapped gift in her arms “and it look like she was delivering gifts,” she said. “Patients have fun with it. We have fun with it.”
Contestants usually have been in their third trimester, like the young women who participated in Friday's contest.
Jacksonville resident Brandy Stoneman, whose baby is due Monday, said she was looking at the clinic's flyer publicizing the event “and said to John (Greer) that it looked interesting.”
Greer, who enjoys drawing, agreed the couple should enter the competition.
Their efforts earned them “most creative” honors: Det. Guerra told the couple the green witch's face on Stoneman's stomach “reminds me of someone,” causing an outbreak of laughter from the group gathered in the waiting room of Burke's office.
Stoneman and Greer said they came up with the idea for the green witch's face from an outdoor Halloween decoration they own.
“I thought a witch would be interesting. You always see pumpkins, but never that many (drawings of) witches,” he said, later adding, “What would have been good would have been if we painted a baby peeking out of her stomach.”
Jacksonville mother-to-be Kamesha High's design took “most work” honors.
She provided the canvas for a glittery scene depicting various symbols of Halloween created by two of her friends. The work featured candy, a ghost, a cat, a graveyard and a “Happy Halloween” greeting.
“There are various things going on (in the image) at any given time … I see a grave, and a ghost …,” Guerra said, listing different items.
“I thought this might be a fun thing to do,” said the young mother, whose baby is due Nov. 18.
Chelsea Meador, also of Jacksonville, became part of her art display, painting her hands, feet and face brown, and had floral wire woven into hanks of her hair, which was painted green and decorated with leaves.
The idea was to create an illusion of a tree, while her baby bump, painted brown with a black “hole” in the center, featured a witch flying through the trunk.
Her family “got the idea from the internet, where they saw an image of a witch flying into a tree,” she said, explaining that the witch and the broom she was flying on had been adhered to her body with an adhesive substance.
“It's ingenious and original,” Guerra said, awarding Meador – whose baby is due Dec. 30 – with “most effort” honors.
Each of the women received prizes donated by Burke.
“To have fun with their pregnancy is the whole idea” of the contest, Burke said. “When they get to this point of pregnancy, they're like 'ugh!' (because their body has grown so much heavier). So I tell them to take pictures (of these changes and to enjoy this time of pregnancy).”