Port Richey, Fla. Chewing gum in school and just about everywhere else, for that matter finally paid off for Anna Hansen.
The 10-year-old from Cape Coral won the Dubble Bubble National Bubble Blowing Contest on Saturday, turning four pieces of the pink gum into a 13-inch, breath-filled sphere. She received a $10,000 U.S. savings bond and a gum ball machine to go with her champions crown.
Hansen competed against five other finalists, chosen from more than 1 million 8- to 12-year-olds who entered qualifying contests around the country. They spent five minutes seeing who could blow the biggest bubble. Her closest competition was more than an inch shy of the winning mark.
Cory Villano, 9, of Plymouth, Mass., and Brandi Stahl, 12, of Tyler, Texas, tied for second place, with bubbles of 11 3/4 inches. Nadia Flores, 8, of Lyford, Texas, placed fourth at 10 inches.
Zac London, 11, of Millersburg, Iowa, was fifth at 9 3/4 inches, followed by Jonathon Turner, 10, Leavenworth, at 9 inches.
The runners-up won $5,000 savings bonds. All six finalists had donations to the Childrens Miracle Network charity made in their names.
Hansen said bubble-blowing takes practice.
"I practice every day, about 30 minutes a day," she said, her face and hair covered in gum from several ill-fated attempts. "I've gone through about 12 boxes of gum since (the qualifying rounds in) May."
Sometimes all that chewing gets her in trouble. One of her teachers at Littleton Elementary School often has to remind Hansen about the class rules.
"He tells me, 'Spit that gum out right now!"' Hansen said. "I just forget sometimes."
Hansen blew a 22-inch bubble while qualifying, but that round was indoors. The finals were outside, and a light breeze made the bubble-blowing challenge a bit stickier.
As reigning champion, Hansen expects to chew a lot more gum during the next 12 months. Already, organizers have lined up national TV appearances.