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Pop goes the competition as bubble queen is crowned

No thanks to Mr. Ellerbusch, Anna Hansen is a bubble gum blowing champion.

At least six times last year, the Cape Coral girl's fourth-grade teacher caught her with a wad of bubble gum her mouth. Each time he told her the same thing:

"Spit your gum out _ NOW."

Saturday morning in front of a Port Richey Wal-Mart, the 10-year-old earned her redemption. She blew a 13-inch pink sphere _ about 1{ times the diameter of a basketball _ to defeat five other gum chewers in the second annual Dubble Bubble kids' national bubble blowing contest.

Then Anna let out a little secret about her teacher.

"Most of the time he didn't catch me," she said, a pink beard of gum still clinging to her smile.

As a result of her win, Anna picked up a $10,000 U.S. savings bond, a silver cardboard crown and a trip with the other finalists to the gum company's factory in Toronto. Also, $5,000 will be donated in her name to Children's Miracle Network.

"Florida is the bubble blowing capital of the free world," declared Wal-Mart store manager Rick Serina.

Dubble Bubble plans to move the competition each year to the home of the previous year's winner. Port Richey's new Wal-Mart, 8701 U.S. 19, played host as a result of last year's competition, which was won by 10-year-old Adam Feagley of Hudson.

A look at Adam's past year is a look into the future for Anna Hansen.

Since his victory, he has traveled to Disney World and appeared on the Today show, the Early Show with Bryant Gumbel _ where he out-bubbled the host _ and a yet-to-be-aired Food Network program.

Adam also earned his first cavity.

"It'll be worth one cavity," said Debbie Hansen, the new champion's mother.

Anna and the other five finalists qualified for the competition at Wal-Marts across the country on May 26. About a million kids ages 8-12 blew bubbles, Dubble Bubble officials said. Only the six who managed a bubble of 18 inches or larger made it to Port Richey.

Standing shoulder to shoulder on a stage Saturday morning, they had five minutes to blow away. Officials measured each of their bubbles before the gum collapsed on their hair and faces. Most used four pieces of gum, as Adam Feagley did last year.

For Anna, her second bubble, less than a minute into the frenzy, proved to be the winner.

"I went slow and took my time blowing," she said.

The biggest problem ahead of the champion won't be her fifth-grade teacher, her mother said. It's going to be the braces she gets in six months. But much like her teachers, that obstacle will be overcome.

"You can chew with braces," her mother said. "If you don't tell the orthodontist."