Watkins triumphs in Geranium Festival Design Contest

Jason A. Smith
Times Correspondent

Gabriela Watkins of Locust Grove has loved drawing flowers since she was a little girl, but she never imagined thousands of people would be exposed to her artistic talents.

Gabriela Watkins holds her winning entry. Photo by Jason A. Smith

However, that’s exactly what happened when Watkins, a sophomore at Locust Grove High School, won first place in this year’s Geranium Festival Design Contest.

“I was downstairs and started jumping up and down,” says the 16-year-old Watkins of the moment, earlier this month, when she was notified of her victory. “I ran upstairs and told my parents. I was really excited.”

Watkins’ art was chosen as the best in a field of 110 entries for the contest, which was juried by McDonough Arts. The second-place award went to Leana Hoang of McDonough, and the third-place winner was Mandi Wright of Locust Grove.

Watkins’ win garnered her $150, and her drawing of geraniums surrounding the McDonough Welcome Center will be featured on commemorative T-shirts as the official logo for the 38th annual festival on May 16.

“I’ve never had my design worn by anybody,” says Watkins. “It feels great.”

Watkins, an aspiring surgeon, says she mainly enjoys art “for fun.” She first learned about the design contest from an art teacher at her school, who encouraged students to incorporate something about McDon-ough into their entries.

“What’s better than the Welcome Center?” Watkins asks rhetorically. “Everybody knows where that is.”

Geraniums are featured prominently in the drawing created by Hoang, 14, of McDonough. Her second-place finish earned her $100 in the contest.

The Luella Middle School eighth-grader has always enjoy-ed art as a hobby, and hasn’t yet decided how far she will take it in high school. Still, Hoang says she jumped at the chance to participate in the competition.

“It was an option for a project in my art class,” says Hoang. “I figured it would be nice to win money. I was watching a video where people shaped pressed flowers into letters. It was actually a Mother’s Day gift idea video.”

Hoang’s drawing depicts geraniums shaped like letters in the words “Geranium Festival.” She says she was unaware of her high placement in the contest until a friend gave her the good news.

“I was at the mall, and my friend sent me a screen shot of the Geranium Festival website, congratulating me,” says Hoang. “Also, another friend sent me a Facebook post about it. I was happy. I didn’t think I’d actually win, because I thought a lot of kids were entering.”

Wright, 18, of Locust Grove, was similarly excited about placing third in the contest. She says she been interested in art her whole life as a way to express herself.

The Locust Grove High School senior’s entry also features the Welcome Center as well as the Henry County Courthouse. She won $50 for her entry, a distinction she wasn’t expecting.

“I wanted to incorporate more of the different aspects of the Square and put flowers in it,” says Wright. “I was kind of surprised because when I was drawing it, it was kind of a last-minute thing because I needed an extra grade.”

Wright is currently working on a mural of downtown Locust Grove, depicting Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary on one side and Gardner Farm on the other. Her goal, upon completing her education, is to become a zoologist.

Rick Berry is the chairman of the Geranium Festival for the McDonough Lions Club. He says the Design Contest, now in its second year, generated entrants ranging in age from 8 to 49 years old.

“It was very good quality with a lot of thought about the Geranium Festival in McDonough, geraniums and community,” says Berry. “We’re trying to promote art in Henry County so that they can put the proceeds back into art in the school system.”