Two babies sit on a brown carpet. People kneel at the back of the frame trying to coax the babies toward them.
Penelope Sousa (left) and Kaden Light (center) raced for second place at the Ashland County Fair's Diaper Derby on Sept. 21, 2023.

ASHLAND — The annual Diaper Derby at the Ashland County Fair turned into a race for second place on Thursday morning. 

Tate Harrison handily won the event, leaving Penelope Sousa and Kaden Light in the dust.

It looked like Light would take the win when he sat down right in front of the finish line, refusing to move any more, even for jangling keys. That’s when 1-year-old Sousa made a comeback, crawling across the carpet to a Winnie the Pooh stuffed animal her mom was waving. 

Sousa took the second place trophy home.

“I’m proud of her,” said Taylor Sousa, Penelope’s mom. “I’m going to go home and cry for sure. That’s her first trophy.” 

Penelope Sousa (left) and Kaden Light (right) competed in the 36th Diaper Derby at the Ashland County Fair on Sept. 21, 2023.

The fair’s Diaper Derby has been an event for families to participate in for 36 years. Crawling babies are welcome to enter. A handwritten sheet detailing the rules of the event states that you can have two coaches to help the babies along — one positioned at the start, and one at the end. 

This year’s event had four entries, but one was disqualified because he started walking, which is against the rules. Harrison, Sousa and Light went through two rounds before the final one, where Harrison crawled his way to a win. 

But the event is a generational experience more than anything. Taylor Sousa said she did the derbies when she was a baby, too. 

Tara Mowry, the great aunt of third place champ Kaden Light, said her family has attended the Diaper Derby for 30 years. She has watched her own children, along with cousins, nephews, nieces and now, great nephews participate in the event. 

“It’s funny to see what people do to try to get the babies to crawl to them,” Mowry said. 

Light, Mowry’s great-nephew, crawled to get to his cousin Hudson. Hudson was a former champ of the event himself. 

After the event finished, the winners received trophies. A local business, Step2, donated a toddler swing that was auctioned off at the event’s end, too. Harrison, the reigning Diaper Derby champ, took that prize home with him.

Ashland Source's Report for America corps member. She covers education and workforce development, among other things, for Ashland Source. Thomas comes to Ashland Source from Montana, where she graduated...