Call it beginners' luck. Call it a sympatico between children and flowers. Call it poetic justice. But this year's winners of The Herald-Mail's plant-themed, 15th annual Landmarks Contest is a grandmother and three young relatives.
The winners are three cousins, Madison Whittington, 5, Chloe Whittington, 7, and Paige Whittington, 7, all of Hagerstown, and Tammy Chaney, of Hagerstown, grandmother of Madison and Chloe. They will share the contest prize of $300.
Chaney said she watches the three girls during summer. The girls are very close —"Paige is not my granddaughter, but she might as well be," Chaney said — and they enjoyed spending time with Grandma in Funkstown, where this year's clues were.
"It was nice. We took our time. We would just pick a day and go," Chaney said.
Chaney and the Whittingtons were declared the winners of the 2011 Landmarks Contest after their entry was selected at random from among those with landmarks identified correctly for all 10 clues. The Lifestyle section received 123 entries; 114 were correct — 93 percent of the total. This contrasted with the challenging 2005 contest, in which only 17 percent of entries were correct.
Chaney celebrated her 47th birthday this week, so winning the contest was especially sweet. But the contest was a gift in other ways.
"I had double-bypass surgery in June and I was supposed to get out and walk," she said. "And we did. We went one day a week for four weeks."
Chaney said the girls carried a copy of the July 31 edition of The Herald-Mail Lifestyle section featuring the 10 clues, and the girls led the search party around Funkstown. Chaney followed with the contest entry form and a pen.
"The girls are the ones that found stuff. We walked along, and they said, ‘There it is,'" Chaney said.
The team searched for hours each day. "We looked everywhere," Madison said.
"The hardest one was (clue No. 10) the tile," Chloe said. "It was so little."
"They caught that one by accident," Chaney said. "Who'd a thought it would have been tiles?"
Searching together was fun, Chaney said, but meeting other people during the search was a delight.
"That was the best part, you met so many nice people," she said. "We met this man — he lives on High Street. He was telling us stories about back in the day."
Chaney said she didn't know what they would do with the prize money. But she wanted to do something with the family.
"Maybe we'll go to the amusement park," she said.