Temperatures below zero degrees, frozen lakes, snow-packed roads, a pandemic that still hasn't abated, and a contentious presidential election cycle that rent the country in two. 2020 wasn't a very good year, and so far, 2021 hasn't shaped up to be much better.

We all need a little "good news" and positivity in our lives, and the Tahlequah Daily Press tries to find it. Every day, we provide features about people who are quiet heroes in the background; groups that are doing good works in the community; and children and adults who still persevere in having fun and engaging in their hobbies. We think that's important; we always have.

That determination to bring a bright spot into everyone's lives is the impetus behind the Cutest Baby contest. It's modeled off a competition our sister paper, the Stilwell Democrat-Journal, has been running for several years. But this isn't the TDP's first project of its kind; for several years, we ran a Cutest Grandbaby contest around Valentine's Day, and for those who remember it, the rules are pretty much the same.

Elsewhere in today's print and e-editions of the TDP are photos of the babies, submitted free of charge by friends and family. They're not in color in today's print edition, due to constraints placed by the storm on another sister paper: the Muskogee Phoenix, which prints TDP and other area papers in our group. They are in color in the e-edition, however, and will be published again at least twice next week.

Only residents of Cherokee County were eligible to enter, and all children are between newborn and 3 years old. Parents and guardians who submitted the photos had to provide us with the children's names and ages, and their contact numbers.

Voting has already begun, and although the original deadline to cast a ballot was Friday, Feb. 26 at noon, the voting may be extended due to the weather. Those wishing to vote should call the TDP office at 918-456-8833 to make sure we are open, and that the contest is still open. Votes must be brought into our office at 106 W. Second St., and each vote costs $1. There is no limit to voting. (It's possible that some votes may be taken via credit card over the phone, but there are limitations, which our classifieds coordinator, Terri Owens, can explain; she is generally the one who answers the phone.)

The first-place winner - there will be one boy and one girl - will be the baby who receives the most votes. They will receive at least $35 in cash, depending on the number of votes cast, a tiara, crown, and other gifts. Also depending on participation, there may be second- and third-place winners. (For those who have demanded to know whether the money for the votes will go, it's for the prizes for the babies, and any money left over will go into a fund to sweeten the pot for next year's winners.)

So take a look at our babies - for our community's babies belong to all of us, in a sense! - and cast your votes. Winners will be announced Feb. 28, or later, if the deadline is extended.

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