Laurel Arts, Somerset Inc. offer decoration contest

November 24, 2018

I remember the first time I had the opportunity to visit New York City at Christmas. The lights scattered throughout the towering trees, the perfectly orchestrated window designs that draw you so close that you accidentally blur the window with your breath, the glimpses of red, gold, green and silver on every corner and down every street, are fond memories. The city that never sleeps has contributed a lot to the American holiday fabric, but the same could be said for the charm of small towns.

Whether your favorite holiday film is “Miracle on 34th Street” or “It’s a Wonderful Life,” there is an underlying theme of bringing family together, community together and in a lot of these films, the town takes on a supporting role of its own. The feel of an uptown (or downtown) space can completely transform during the holidays, that holiday magic is made in part by the local organizations and businesses that go the extra mile to spread a bit more cheer this time of year; however, that cheer is not always cheap and for many towns, it can become quite an expensive undertaking to update or add holiday decorations. This is where a bit of imagination and a dash of ingenuity can create some magic — enter the Holiday Design Scholarship.

During a Somerset Borough meeting, Henry Cook, CEO of Somerset Trust Co., presented an idea for a holiday design competition where students would be challenged to create large-scale holiday decorations for their communities. Soon after, Somerset, Inc. and Laurel Arts joined forces to make this idea a reality. Letters were drafted and sent to schools throughout Somerset County, as well as sponsors for the awards and the cost of materials to be used by the schools.

The completed design projects are displayed Uptown as part of Light Up Somerset on Saturday and will then be transported and displayed at Laurel Arts. The community will have two weeks to vote for their favorite entry and the winning entries will be announced at the Laurel Arts annual holiday tradition, First Night, which will be held on Dec. 7 at the Dressler Center in Somerset. Based on the votes, the winning team will be awarded a $500 people’s choice scholarship. In addition, judges will select and award artist and technical scholarships worth $250 each. The purpose for these scholarships is to help support the art and technical departments of our local schools. After First Night, the projects will then be moved back to the schools’ respective communities and be proudly displayed.

Regina Coughenour, executive director of Somerset, Inc., said that this project will “empower technical students and art students by giving them a budget to create something special.”

All parties involved have been so excited about this project — from the students, to the faculty, to the business sponsors and our own organizations; it has been an incredible experience and we hope to add this to our own holiday traditions to spread a bit more cheer, year-after-year. December in Times Square can be an amazing spectacle, but our small-town holiday traditions are just as warm and magical, with the unique quality of hometown heart.

Voting for the people’s choice award will take place from Nov. 24 until noon Dec. 7, so head to www.somersetinc.org/holidaydesign and cast your vote for your favorite design. Also, be sure to check out the Somerset, Inc. and Laurel Arts websites and Facebook pages for more information about Light Up Somerset and First Night.

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