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May 03. 2013 12:40AM

Fun in the sand

Hampton Beach loves this little mermaid


Windham resident Jenny Pareja-Whipple took this snapshot of her daughter, Geni Pareja, 9, at Hampton Beach last summer. Having won first place in a local photo contest, the native of the Philippines, now a third-grader at Windham Center School, will be featured in this year's Hampton Beach Visitor's Guide. (COURTESY)

WINDHAM - Growing up in the Philippines, Jenny Pareja-Whipple loved to swim in the Pacific Ocean, building castles and animals on the sandy seashore.

It was a pastime she later shared with her young daughter, Geni.

"We'd be at the beach almost everyday," Pareja-Whipple said.

Two years ago, when the mother and daughter moved to the United States with Pareja-Whipple's husband, Steve Whipple, the newly formed family delighted in summer day trips to Hampton Beach, where they once again indulged their imagination in the sand dunes.

During one such trip last summer, Geni, 9, had a special request for her mother.

"I want to be a mermaid," she declared. Pareja-Whipple got to work, burying her daughter's lower body in sand they agreed was much whiter and softer than the sands of their homeland.

"It was just like old times," she said.

Snapping a photograph of the "mermaid" in her natural habitat, the family sent the picture to the Hampton Beach Chamber of Commerce, feeling hopeful but not altogether convinced the photo would appear in an upcoming visitor's guide.

The local organization prints a guide each summer season, with 50,000 guides distributed in the United States and Canada annually.

Each year the chamber hosts a contest to select photographs to be used in the guide, and last weekend, the Windham family learned Geni's photograph would be among those photographs, having earned first place in the contest.

The family was treated to dinner at the Ashworth by the Sea as a prize.

"We'd kind of forgotten about it," Pareja-Whipple said. "Then we went to the mailbox last Saturday."

Geni, a third-grader at Windham Center School, is beyond excited.

"She pretty much feels like a rock star," said Steve Whipple, who was upstairs working in his home office when he heard his wife and stepdaughter begin to scream.

"They were whooping it up like they'd won 'American Idol,'" he said with a laugh. "They're on Facebook showing the photo to relatives who are 9,000 miles away."

aguilmet@newstote.com


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