Lincolnton native Mark Smith received word this month that his artistic design won the right to be printed on T-shirts for this fall’s annual Lincoln County Apple Festival.
In addition, the Lincoln Cultural Center won the right to print the T-shirts and profit from the sales, according to Lincoln County Cooperative Extension’s Administrative Assistant Joyce Dorsey, who heads all the planning and organization of the yearly county event.
Each year, her office hosts the two-fold contest, seeking creative residents’ unique designs and local nonprofits’ essays on why each should be chosen to sell the shirts.
Each artist can submit up to three designs, Dorsey said.
She also advertises the contest and mails letters to all nonprofits in the area.
While this year a small number of organizations and artists first applied, surprising Dorsey and fellow Cooperative Extension coworkers, the volume soon picked up, with a total of 25 designs submitted by the contest’s deadline.
However, the number of nonprofit entries rested at three.
“I don’t understand why all the nonprofits don’t go for the gold,” Dorsey said. “There are less and less (entries) each year until one day we won’t have a T-shirt.”
Smith’s artwork, which incorporated a tree branch, apple and the words “Lincoln County Apple Festival 2014″ in large calligraphy lettering, proved to be the leading entry this year.
After procrastinating for several weeks, he said he finally sat down and produced his vision for the shirt in just four hours.
Smith takes most of the year to piece together in his mind the design he’s going to enter.
“If I can see it in my mind, then I can put it on paper,” he said.
He said he enters the contest every spring, securing third place last year, and the top spot during the 1990s, when designs were displayed on a large festival banner, instead of a T-shirt.
Smith’s creative mark can be seen all over town. Not only did he recently complete an extensive mural project on the side brick wall of Shalom Baptist Church on North Aspen Street, showcasing a lighthouse, dove and three crosses, but he also painted a mural of the Jordan River inside the baptistery of another local church.
“I was blessed with a talent,” he said.
Growing up, he often watched his sister draw and participate in crafts, inspiring him to later pickup a paintbrush.
In addition to calligraphy and painting, Smith dabbles in photography and has a dream of one day building a glamour-shot studio where he can showcase both artistic trades.
“Every woman needs a picture like that (glamour shot),” he said smiling.
According to Cathy Davis, executive director of the Lincoln Cultural Center, winning the right to sell the festival shirts is an exciting honor in a small town where numerous other nonprofits exist.
Dorsey noted the initiative also financially benefits the chosen organization.
“You can make a couple thousand dollars off it,” she said. “It takes some work, but you can do it.”
Davis said the Cultural Center has entered the contest on more than occasion but never received the privilege until this year.
“We are very pleased and honored,” she said.
Nonprofit officials have yet to determine what company will print the shirts or what color the shirts will be, but they are set on seeking out a local business for the project.
To some residents, the shirts, which typically cost just $12, are a staple of Lincoln County, and they collect them each year.
Smith said he has almost every shirt design, too, from over the decades.
Cultural Center officials would like to collect the shirts from any willing residents and display them at this year’s festival.
Individuals interested in donating their Apple Festival shirts may call the Lincoln Cultural Center at (704) 732-9055.