Our town featured a different kind of summer diversion this year. The Smithsonian Institution's traveling exhibit "The Way We Worked" had a place of honor for several weeks in a renovated area of the historic Plainwell Paper Mill.
Our local arts council and district library were principal sponsors of the exhibit, and they created
Several days after the exhibit left town, a cheerful librarian called with the news my essay was a winner and prizes would be forthcoming. It was great news, but got a little less great when she laughed and said there were six prize packages for the five authors who entered the competition, so everybody got a prize. I felt a bit as some youngsters might when everybody who races around the track gets a blue ribbon because "we all are winners."
My ego got a small boost when the librarian said she thought my essay was the best. But when I stopped in to get my prizes and read the other four entries on display, I realized there were some pretty darn good stories in the "contest." Did that pleasant lady tell everyone their essay was the best?
The prize packet included a nice "Essay Contest Winner" certificate and a Barnes and Noble gift card. The third item was a $25 share of stock in the Michigan Paper Company of Plainwell. Wow, those were issued many years ago. Could be very valuable. Not really--the Plainwell Paper Mill ceased operations 15 years ago. The buildings are being demolished or, in a few cases, remodeled for other uses.
Incidentally, the Smithsonian exhibit is an outstanding audio-visual presentation. If it comes your way, take the opportunity to see it. And, if the locals sponsor an essay contest, give that a go. Chances of winning are very good. If nothing else, you might ask about that sixth prize package the Plainwell folks couldn't find a winner for.