ADVICE FROM VICTORIA JUSTICE
• Eat healthy
• Find a hobby that you're passionate about
• Learn an instrument or another language
Four-year-old Jefferson Hester was among more than a dozen small children perched atop grownups' shoulders, eagerly waiting to catch a glimpse of Nickelodeon star Victoria Justice as she made her appearance at the Kidz Expo on Saturday.
Sitting up high gave Jefferson a better view over the raucous crowd that formed a barricade of kids and parents in front of the area where the young starlet in person was set to meet her young audience.
Jefferson is "in love" with Justice, said his mother, Faires Hester. He's asked his parents to cut out the photo of her each time that it's appeared in the Chattanooga Times Free Press, the event's sponsor.
"She's funny, and ... she's funny," Jefferson said before turning his attention back to prying off his blue Kidz Expo wristband.
Justice, who stars in the Nickelodeon hit "Victorious," was just one attraction, but easily the most popular, at the first-ever Kidz Expo that packed the Chattanooga Convention Center Saturday. Kids, parents in tow, pushed their way through the crowd to play on inflatables, scale climbing walls, stuff themselves with food and have photos made with SpongeBob SquarePants, the Cat in the Hat, Clifford the Big Red Dog, Dora the Explorer and Ronald McDonald.
The beyond-sold-out event left Chattanooga Times Free Press President Jason Taylor feeling "overwhelmed."
Taylor was the emcee, entertaining the huge crowd surrounding a stage that would eventually be graced by Justice for a Q and A session. Taylor would incite the crowd to occasionally do a wave or "move like [Mick] Jagger."
"It's great to see thousands of families in one place having fun," Taylor said.
After making her way to the stage and answering questions from the surrounding sea of fans, Justice told the Times Free Press she was just as excited to meet them as they were to meet her.
Tennessee viewers of "Victorious," as well as the other shows Justice has appeared in - "Zoey 101" and "iCarly" - frequently tweet to her, she said.
"Interacting with the fans is important. It brightens their day, and it makes me happy," she said during a backstage interview.
The line to meet Justice stretched across one side of the exhibit hall. Six-year-old Lexi Morrow and 9-year-old Harley Morrow stood in line for about four hours with their mother, Elizabeth Morrow, just to spend less than a minute with Justice.
"They won't forget it," Elizabeth Morrow said.
After Justice left the stage, Susan Prostko took a minute to sit and relax while her daughter and two friends explored what else the Expo offered.
Temporary tattoos were a big hit, as one of the girls had five on her arms and face.
"This was great," Prostko said during her breather. "They stayed busy the whole time, and I had fun watching them."
Prostko said she hopes next year will be even bigger, as they plan to go again.