Long-time Landmarks participants win 16th annual contest

August 25, 2012|By CHRIS COPLEY |
  • The toughest clue in this year's Landmarks Contest was No. 9, top. Above, the answer is in the Rochester parking lot on South Prospect Street.
Photos by Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

There's something to be said for persistence. Tradition says it's supposed to pay off, at least eventually. And for Chris and Holly Brunner and their family, it finally did.

The Brunners, of Hagerstown, along with their kids — son Chris and daughter Rebekah — have participated in every Herald-Mail Landmarks Contest since the beginning.

And this year, for our 16th annual contest, the Brunner clan found all 10 landmarks and were selected by random drawing as the winners. They will receive $300.

The elder Chris Brunner said in recent years the four family members have been joined in the search by Rebekah's husband, Steve Hartt, and by younger Chris' wife, Kelly.

The clan gathered at the site of the toughest clue, No. 9 — the word OPPORTUNITY on a pale gray background — to talk about the contest.

Holly Brunner said this year, for the first time, the family search party was reduced in size.

"Normally, it's the six of us, but my daughter and her husband are out of town," she said. "We did it every year since the beginning, when our son would have been 11 and daughter 14. Even the dog went with us when we looked."

The theme of this year's contest was "Blue and Gray," in honor of the upcoming sesquicentennial of the Battle of Antietam. The 10 clues for this year's contest were divided between the colors that characterize the army uniforms of Federal troops and Confederate troops.

All clues were in downtown Hagerstown, within two blocks of Public Square. Clues were closeup photos of buildings or structures, all visible from public sidewalks, walkways or streets in the city of Hagerstown. Participants had to correctly identify all 10 buildings or structures as clearly and specifically as possible.

Some participants reported that this year's contest was particularly challenging, and there were fewer entries than usual. Sixteen entry forms were submitted, and only three of these had all 10 landmarks identified. The Brunners' entry was drawn at random by sports writer Bob Parasiliti.

The Brunners were happy to finally win, but they all agreed that winning wasn't the only point.

"This is a family tradition," said the younger Chris Brunner.

His father added, "It's the thrill of the hunt."

The older Chris Brunner said the family fanned out several times in downtown Hagerstown, searching for clues.

"We went off in different directions. And I ride a bike, so once in a while I'd ride around downtown and look," he said. "I thought it was one of the harder (contests). The post one (No. 7) was tough - it looked like a roofline."

Several clues were difficult. No. 9 was a tiny word at the bottom of a painted wall at the public Rochester Parking Lot at the corner of West Washington and South Prospect streets. The younger Chris Brunner said even after his father told him where it was, he walked around the parking lot three times before he found it.

Another difficult clue was No. 2, carved concentric circles on a gray surface. That was hard, Holly said, partly because the clue's warm gray color as printed in the paper looked different from the slate gray color of the building. But then she saw it at sunset, and the gray appeared warmer.

On the other hand, clue No. 6 - the white letters TONI on a blue background -turned out to be easier than expected. The letters were part of the word HAGERSTONIANS on at least seven historical plaques in downtown Hagerstown.

Despite the difficult clues, the Brunners didn't give up.

"We always enjoy it," the elder Chris Brunner said. "We'd see several people walking around with newspapers, and we'd say, 'How ya doing?' They'd say 'Having a hard time with this one or that one.'"

But quitting was not an option for the Brunner clan.

"The two guys especially never give up," Holly said. "They start watching for it every year. We don't expect to win. We do it for the fun."

"But," added Kelly, "it was nice to win."

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