Window-painting contest highlights balloon festival

Kathy McCarty, Special to The County
17 years ago

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine – Karrie Brawn’s recent window-painting contest not only added some color to downtown Presque Isle, but is helping her reach gold.

“It was a community service project I did for my Girl Scout Gold Award, which is the highest honor that you can earn as a Girl Scout,” she said. “It takes a lot of work, time and effort to attain it.”
Brawn, a junior at Presque Isle High School, thought a window-painting contest as part of the Crown of Maine Balloon Fest would be a great way to promote the event.
“What I had set out to do was try to get more community involvement in the balloon festival through something art related that I love,” said Brawn. “I talked to Derik Smith, chair of the Balloon Fest Committee, who is also my boss, about doing a window-painting contest and he said it was fine if I organized it.
“After sending in all my initial paperwork to get the project approved by the Girl Scouts, I went around to all of the local businesses and asked them if they wouldn’t mind having their storefront window painted,” she said. “I would park at one end of Main Street, walk up and talk with the business owners that were open. Businesses from Black Bear Realty to Northern Printers agreed to have their windows painted.”
In total, 15 businesses had 25 windows decorated with the hot air balloon theme.
“There were 2 to 3 people working on a team at each window, so there were more than 50 kids involved in the project,” said Brawn. “The contest was for kids entering grades 3 through 12. A lot of them I had already known throughout the community since I do a lot of community service projects involving kids, some were from the high school who like art that I knew would enjoy the contest, and some were other troop members.
“Even though it was for my Girl Scout Gold Award,” she said, “both boys and girls were involved. I’m very pleased with how the project turned out. It was stressful as far as organizing it, but I’m happy with how it went and how Main Street looks. Hopefully I helped increase the participation in the balloon festival in a small way by involving the community in the window-painting contest.”
A member of Girl Scout Troop 677, Brawn purchased the brushes from Lowe’s and Wal-Mart, while the paints were donated by Presque Isle High School.
“They were very generous about that,” she said. “We had put everything assembled into a box which included paint, two or three brushes, pamphlets about what their window would be scored on, and how to reach me during the day if they had any questions.”
The windows measured roughly four feet by two and-a-half feet, although windows painted by the younger children were slightly smaller.
“I went around with my brother and a friend from Girl Scouts the day before filling up bottles of paint,” said Brawn, “and taped off the windows with blue painter’s tape.”
Judges critiqued the windows based on theme, color, and space.
“With theme, for example, judges were looking as to whether the windows were related to the balloon festival,” said Brawn. “With space, did they use up all of their space or is it kind of empty looking? Is there too much in it? Did they use appropriate colors? Does it blend well? Is appealing to the eye?”
First- and second-place honors were awarded in three categories: grades 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12. Prizes included art supplies, sketchbooks, gift certificates to Morning Star, and art lessons at the Wintergreen Art Center.
“We also have one grand prize,” Brawn said. “The winner will have their window as the advertisement for next year.”
Winners of the first-ever window-painting contest are:
High school: Anna Harris (first place) and Emilee Currie and Allison Young (second place).
Middle school: Tie: Madison Michaud (first place) and Abbey Holcombe, Idella Thompson and Erin Patton (first place).
Elementary school: Wyatt Holcombe (first place) and Gracie Griffith (second place).
Grand prize: Bridget Hughes, Lorraine Hughes and Haley Johnston.
Brawn said the contest wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for the generous support of local businesses.
“I’m very happy with the way it turned out and the participation that I got from everyone,” she said. “Everyone was just so wonderful throughout the entire project. The business owners were very enthusiastic and they all seemed happy with the end results.”
Gene Wright, owner of Northern Printers, said he was happy with the finished product.
“We’ve had lots of compliments on the windows, and hopefully it peaked interest in the balloon festival,” he said. “A lot of work goes into our different local events, and we like to do what we can to promote our community and what it offers.”
Brawn said she plans on organizing the window-painting contest again next year.
“For the Gold Award, we need to come up with something that will be ongoing,” she said. “Since the Crown of Maine Balloon Fest is an annual event and keeps growing, I thought this would be a wonderful way to help promote it for years to come.”