Wakefield Junior Wins Tax-Decal Competition


(Wednesday, January 31, 2007 5:23 AM EST)

Wakefield High School junior Danielle Day entered the county government's vehicle-tax decal competition modestly. She was surprised just to be a finalist, but her creative interpretation of Arlington's newest memorial has made her this year's winner.

Day's design was announced as the winner at Tuesday's County Board meeting. Being chosen is a great boost to any budding artist, since the design will be affixed to the approximately 155,000 registered vehicles in Arlington.

Day's design, a digital photograph of the Air Force Memorial, was selected from four other finalists from local high schools. Arlington residents cast votes for their favorite decal design through the county treasurer's office and through the Sun Gazette.

Students from Yorktown, Wakefield and Washington-Lee High Schools, as well as the Arlington Career Center and H-B Woodlawn Program, entered the competition. The four finalists were determined in November by a panel of 15 local residents, and public voting started in December and continued through Jan. 19.

Day had never entered the contest before and thought the Air Force Memorial design would work well for the upcoming year's decal.

“It's a new memorial and everyone is excited to see it,” Day said. “A new memorial, a new decal.”

The Air Force Memorial opened to the public in October last year and was built to honor the service and sacrifices of the men and women of the U.S. Air Force. The three spires are meant to evoke images of flight, as well as represent the three core values of the Air Force and the Air Force's total force (active, guard and reserve).

Executing the design was not an easy process. Day had to visit the memorial more than once to get the lighting just way the she wanted.

“I had to come back at night, so the lights would be on it,” she said. “The shadowing is nicer that way.”

She then worked on the photo in Photoshop, tweaking some of the lighting and adding the rich red background. Day's work on the photo and her involvement in the competition has given the memorial personal meaning to the young artist and her family.

“Every time I go past the memorial, my mom says, ‘There goes your memorial!'” Day said.

More than 2,500 votes were cast in the competition for the 2007-08 decal (25 percent more votes than last year). And of the 2,500, about 2,000 were online votes. The results were very close, as Day won the competition by just 22 votes.

In addition to Day, two other Wakefield students were finalists - seniors Thomas Phan and Amanda Donahoo - as well as one student from the H-B Woodlawn Program, sophomore Isabel Rich.

Just being a finalist was a great honor for the three students, especially for first-year entrant Donahoo, who created her design from a digital photo of the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial (better known as Iwo Jima Memorial) in the snow.

“I was shocked when I found my name and picture on the treasurer's office Web site,” said Donahoo.

Rich also used Iwo Jima as the focus of her design. She is grateful for her family's support throughout the competition - her younger brother helped her develop the hand-drawn rendition of the memorial.

For Rich, Iwo Jima has a personal significance for her as an artist.

“I really like the Iwo Jima Memorial,” Rich said. “I pass by it every Sunday on my way to the Corcoran for art class.”

Thomas Phan, who was a finalist in last year's competition, entered his photo of a cherry blossom again, but was still surprised to have been in the final four once more.

“I just wanted to give it another shot,” said Phan. “I go to the cherry blossoms with my family every year.”

Each of the four finalists will receive a $500 savings bond from Wachovia Bank.

Since 1967, county residents have been required to affix decals on windshields to prove they've paid personal property tax on their vehicles. Before that, vehicle owners affixed metal strips to their license plates to signify that the tax had been paid.

This is the fifth year that the public has been allowed to vote on the year's decal design, and it is the third year that the competition has been open solely to student artists. The first decal chosen by the public, in 2002, was of the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery.

Danielle Day's photograph of the Air Force Memorial will be featured on the 2007-08 county vehicle tax decal.
(Photo by Kristen Armstrong)

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