NEWTOWN BOROUGH >> When the Newtown Historic Association announced its first ever Garden Photo Contest earlier this summer, organizers had no idea what to expect.

But as soon as the word got out that they were seeking entries, cameras all around Newtown began capturing the beauty of the community’s flowering private and public areas.

In total, the historians received 176 photographs, all capturing the lush and beautiful gardens and parks of Newtown Borough and Newtown Township.

The public was encouraged to submit as many photographs as they wanted at $5 per entry for the chance to win valuable prizes and to see their photographs included in a Gardens of Newtown poster to be printed later this year.

For those who remember “the Doors of Newtown,” this poster will be a lot like that - a beautiful keepsake of an especially challenging year and a fundraiser for the NHA at a very crucial time.

The historians announced the contest in lieu of its annual garden walk, which typically takes place in July and spotlights the town’s numerous garden spots, but had to be canceled this year due to COVID-19

Thanks, in part to the stay at home orders and the pandemic, many of the community’s private and public gardens were especially lush this year with life, color and flowering plants, just waiting to be captured for posterity.

“The whole idea was to give the public something to celebrate,” said NHA President Barry Fleck. “We are certainly in challenging times with all that’s going on and yet we are surrounded by beauty. And that was one of our goals - to keep people’s minds off of what’s bad and let’s think about what’s good and what we have that we should be really thankful for.”

On Saturday morning, Fleck joined contest organizers Mary Jo Garner and Keyna Crawford in the garden behind the Court Inn to present prizes to the top three contest winners and to recognize four honorable mention winners.

“We had 176 entries. That’s amazing,” said Fleck. “And I’d like to think we can do this again next year. We’d also like to see the garden tour come back, which is so much fun.”

Garner thanked everyone who submitted entries and Shady Brook Farm, Newtown artist Craig Hackett, Grapevine and Clarks Florist for donating gifts for the prize winners.

She also acknowledged judges Craig Hackett, Karen Groff and Marc Waldinger who had the difficult task of selecting the winners. Both Groff and Waldinger are Penn State Master Gardeners.

Winning first place with an especially lush and colorful backyard garden scene, anchored by a stone bench and bird bath, was Brian Titus of Court Street in Newtown Borough.

Second place went to NHA President Barry Fleck for his gated secret Court Street garden and patio bathed in twilight.

And third place was won by Karen Waitkus of Penn Street who captured a stunning photograph featuring a backyard garden brimming with greens, purples and reds framing a wooden backyard barn.

“With the lighting, it all kind of popped,” said Waitkus, who took the prize-winning shot from her back window.

Honorable mentions were won by Brian Titus (two), Anne McKernon and Michael Stevens.

Hackett, who has been taking photos for years, said what struck him about all of the photographs was the “Newtown flavor” that came across in each of the composition.

“When you looked at these photographs you just wanted to be there,” added Groff. “I looked at them and I’d say to myself, ‘I’d love to be sitting right there or walking through there. The one that had chimes in the foreground I felt like I could just hear them. They were inviting.”

Each winner received a print of a Newtown scene painted and donated by Craig Hackett. The top three winners also received gift certificates to Shady Brook Farm, Grapevine and Clarks Florists while honorable mention winners won a free one year membership to the Newtown Historic Association.

“We are disappointed that we aren’t able to hold our garden walk this year because it has been gaining momentum, but we thought this would be a good way to continue it and be safe at the same time,” said contest promoter and board member Kenya Crawford who helped organize the contest with Garner.

The winning photographs can be viewed at NewtownHistoric.org. Under the Menu Tab click on events and scroll down to Garden Photo Contest.

In addition to spotlighting the beauty of Newtown, the contest raised close to $900 for the historical association in an especially trying year for nonprofits.

The money will be put toward the upkeep and maintenance of the Court Inn and its Mercer Street Research Center, which houses a collection of photographs, maps, deeds, wills, diaries, genealogies, memorabilia, books and more documenting Newtown’s past, from its founding to today.

To donate to the association, send checks made payable to the Newtown Historic Association to 105 Court Street, PO Box 303, Newtown, PA 18940 or visit NewtownHistoric.org.

The Newtown Historic Association, Inc. was incorporated in 1964 as an organization dedicated to the preservation of Newtown’s historic heritage. Its mission is to stimulate interest in, preserve, celebrate and share the historic significance of both Newtown borough and township.

Its research center, open to the public by appointment, contains a repository of deeds, wills, diaries, books, maps, photos, genealogies and other documents relating to Newtown and the surrounding area, especially strong in the period when Newtown was the County Seat (1725-1813), including a special collection on early America’s foremost folk painter, Edward Hicks (1780-1849).

Its headquarters are located in the Court Inn (known as the Half-Moon Inn during the mid 18th century), located at the corner of Court Street and Centre Avenue in historic Newtown. The Inn is open for tours showcasing the Half Moon Inn (Court Inn) and the many artifacts and holdings of the Newtown Historic Association.

The Court Inn is located at 105 Court Street, P.O. Box 303, Newtown18940. Hours are Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Thursdays from 7 to 9 p.m. and by appointment. Info: 215-968-4004, www.newtownhistoric.org, info@newtownhistoric.org and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/newtownhistoricassociation.

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