THE big moment has nearly arrived for the hundreds of babies entered in the Chester Chronicle's Baby of the Year contest.

A stunning 423 youngsters have been snapped by Bubbles Character Photography at their studios in Lower Bridge Street, Chester, and Bank Street, Wrexham, over the summer. Now every single one of the gorgeous tots will feature in a special supplement published free with The Chronicle this Friday (October 11).

They will be arranged in alphabetical order in the three age groups: 0 to 9 months, 10 to 18 months and 19 to 36 months.

The Chronicle will be appealing to its loyal readers, to vote for your favourites in each category, either on our voting form or using a special hotline.

Once all the votes have been counted, the winners and two runners-up in each age group will be announced in November.

The 'people's favourites' will then be presented with a stunning array of prizes, including £100 Cheshire Oaks vouchers for the winners and £10 vouchers for children's clothing store JoKids.

The winners' families can also sit down to a slap-up meal at Chiquito Mexican Restaurant and Bar at Coliseum Way, Cheshire Oaks, which is giving away £20 vouchers.

All nine top tots will get free family tickets for Chester Zoo and the Blue Planet Aquarium in Ellesmere Port, plus a bowling session at the Megabowl in Cheshire Oaks. The youngsters can also look forward to meeting Father Christmas and getting a free gift at the Greenfield Valley Heritage Trust in Holywell.

On top of that, Bubbles, the competition sponsors, are presenting the stars of 2002 with framed portraits worth £120 for the winners and £70 for the runners-up.

So don't forget to buy this week's Chronicle to see the full line-up of bonny babies and to find out how to vote for your favourites.