MANSFIELD — Christmas came very early this year for the three winners of the downtown lights photography contest sponsored by Cleveland Financial.
After deliberations by the Downtown Mansfield Holiday Lights committee, Cleveland Financial has officially announced the winners of the downtown lights photography contest held in December. First prize of $500 went to Faith Owens, second prize of $250 went to Breanna Crunkilton, and third prize of $100 went to Braxton Daniels. The committee also awarded an honorable mention to David Kirst.
"I wasn't expecting to win anything at all and entered the contest on a whim, so I was thrilled to say the least," Owens said. "The day I found out, I had been working long hours on schoolwork and my heart dropped when I got the email notification - I immediately opened it and scanned it as quickly as possible to see the results."
This past December, local business owner Chuck Hahn sponsored a photo contest to document the new holiday lights that were displayed downtown this year for the holiday season. The goal of the contest was to document the holiday light displays in downtown Mansfield while also giving inspiration as to where the lights could expand in future years.
A native of Mansfield, Owens is currently a student at Western Washington University studying visual journalism and Salish Sea Studies. She has enjoyed photography since the age of 10.
Owens said she didn't set out with any particular photo in mind when she wanted to capture the downtown lights.
"A challenge I faced was having a 30mm lens, which means that it couldn't zoom," she said. "Because of this, it was hard to photograph a good composition. I knew I wanted to incorporate as much of the square as possible while still capturing the charming details of the lights."
For years the city of Mansfield has installed holiday wreaths around the street lights downtown, but local volunteers wanted to do more. Under the Beautification Sector of Richland Community Development Group (RCDG), these volunteers worked to raise money to purchase more wreaths. There are now more than 80 lit wreaths displayed every December for the holiday season.
Second-place winner Breanna Crunkilton began her photography hobby in earnest this past November, when she decided to take a beginner's photography class at the Madison Adult Career Center. A native of Butler, Crunkilton is a first-grade teacher for Madison Local Schools.
Her winning entry was the last photo she'd taken the night she ventured downtown.
"I had spent time trying to get different angles of the tree and then decided I wanted to get the carrousel and the flag, since the focus of the contest was lights around the downtown," Crunkilton said. "I wanted to have some recognizable features of downtown. Due to the height of everything around I had to sit down and shoot up from the ground."
This past year, volunteers collaborated with the Parks Department to expand the lighting display in Central Park. Local company Pacific Impressions installed and maintained the lights, including a bold lighting display in the shape of a Christmas tree installed on the west face of the city building.
This and another lighting display at the five-way light intersection was conceived, designed, and executed by local volunteer Scott Trumpower, who contributed countless hours of work and his own money to build these displays. Volunteers also received help from the local Home Depot, which donated $700 worth of lights for the display at the five-way light.
The city's traditional wreaths were the focus of third-place winner Braxton Daniels' photo. A 2014 graduate of Madison Local Schools, Daniels is currently a junior at The Ohio State University's Mansfield campus, pursuing a bachelor's degree in sociology to pair with this associate's degree in art and technology.
An avid photographer, Daniels ventured out into a level-one snowstorm for his winning photograph.
"I've wanted to see how I could capture the falling of snow, so I took a series of photos to see what I could come up with and this photo had a great balance of light, shadows and colors," Daniels said.
The intent of the Downtown Mansfield Holiday Lights committee is to grow the program to improve and expand the lighting displays downtown and beyond. The committee is currently raising funds to repair and replace some of the older wreaths, upgrading them to LED lights. Anyone interested in donating or volunteering should contact RCDG for more information at 419-522-3211.
For each of the winners, downtown Mansfield and its future holds a special significance.
"When I was a kid, my family and I only went downtown for the Carrousel and even then, there didn't seem to be anyone downtown just enjoying the area," Owens said. "Now, at almost any given time, you'll see people wandering up and down Main Street just for the heck of it.
"There are people in great community organizations that are calling for action in topics such as diversity and inclusiveness," she continued. "Mansfield has been revamped into a quaint city that people make a destination in their vacationing and I burst with pride to know I'm from here."