Organizers of a controversial US-themed child beauty pageant have signaled their intention to stage up to four more contests in Ireland next year - despite suffering a backlash from a large number of angry parents just hours before their first-ever Irish event over the weekend.
Plans by Texas-based Universal Royalty to host last Saturday's pageant had been thrown into chaos late last week when a sudden cancellation by the management of their first-choice hotel cast serious doubt over whether the contentious event would go ahead.
Pageant chiefs were then forced to scramble across the country to locate an alternative venue, which they only managed to confirm late on Friday night.
However, their cautious decision to keep the identity of the new venue a secret for as long as possible to avoid another embarrassing cancellation backfired, after 20 furious families pulled their children out of the event.
Just 30 of the 50 youngsters, including a number of babies and toddlers, took part in Saturday's slimmed-down contest at a function room in Corrigan's Kitchen, a pub and restaurant business in Castleblayney, Co. Monaghan.
It's understood that the lengthy delay in passing on the new details to the families, many of whom had already shelled out small fortunes by traveling in from abroad, prompted the large numbers to abandon the contest.
Organizers also admitted that the extra inconvenience and added travel costs involved in the venue's sudden relocation from Dublin to Monaghan proved the last straw with some of the exhausted parents who had signed their kids up to take part.
Fearing a possible second cancellation and a backlash from protestors, worried organizers went to huge lengths to keep the newly-arranged venue a secret for as long as possible and only told the parents of participating youngsters the new details shortly before midnight on Friday.
The last-minute venue change had been triggered by a dramatic U-turn last Thursday night when management of their first-choice hotel, The Bracken Court in Balbriggan, Co. Dublin, suddenly pulled out, saying they had not been made aware of the true nature of the planned event.
Speaking after Saturday's pageant, Universal Royalty boss Annette Hill admitted she made the decision to keep the alternative stage a secret out of fear the substitute venue would cancel on her again.
She also said management of the re-arranged venue only finally gave the green light to the Toddlers & Tiaras-style event once they had judged the performance of both Annette and others connected with the pageant on Friday night's Late Late Show.
But despite the difficulties she has incurred over the past week in staging the event, Hill insisted she was pleased with the eventual outcome of the pageant - which also featured eight-year-old US starlet Eden Wood and her mother, Mickie.
She said there was a "wonderful atmosphere" and that Universal Royalty's first-ever Irish show, which featured talent contests and modelling and beauty heats for youngsters, proved a huge hit with everyone involved.
She also said she intended to be back in Ireland next year to stage up to four more competitions.
She said: "I'm delighted I was able to hold a pageant in the end and it went absolutely fine. It took a bit of arranging, but it was a great success in the end.
"Unfortunately we lost about 20 of the participants. I only told them around midnight on Friday and asked the parents not to tell anyone where it was being staged. We wanted it to be a secret because of what happened at The Bracken Court.
"But it was brilliant. There was even an 11-year-old boy from Cork taking part and he was absolutely fantastic."
Ms. Hill added: "I said before I came over to Ireland that I wanted to make this an annual event and that's exactly what's going to happen.
"There's a huge demand for children's pageants in this country. It's third in the world, behind America and Australia.
"And because of that I'm going to look into holding regional events here in the future in places like Cork, Galway and Belfast, as well as Dublin.
"So my plan next year is to have between three and four pageants."
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