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And the Winner of the Celebrate! West Hartford Shirt Design Contest Is …

Julia Racz, a senior at Conard High School and winner of the Celebrate! West Hartford t-shirt design contest, is presented with a gift certificate to Jerry's Artarama by store manager A.J. Shoham. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

A design by Julia Racz, a senior at West Hartford’s Conard High School, was chosen for this year’s FUNd RUN shirts.

By Ronni Newton

Hundreds of runners will soon be spotted around West Hartford wearing a bright orange shirt with white lettering – and a design in the center created by a West Hartford high school student.

Julia Racz, a senior at Conard High School, created the winning design for this year’s commemorative Celebrate! West Hartford t-shirt, and not only does she have the honor of seeing other people wearing her work, but she also received a $250 gift certificate from Jerry’s Artarama, presented Tuesday afternoon by Manager A.J. Shoham.

Although the overall Celebrate! West Hartford festival was canceled in both 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19, last year a virtual 5K was organized with the theme “Run Apart Give Together” as a way to maintain the run tradition of the festival. The 2021 version of the FUNd RUNS is now a dual event that includes a virtual 5K as well as the opportunity to participate in a month-long Distance Challenge.

Suggested overall mileage for the challenge is 136 miles, which is the distance from one corner of Connecticut to the other, passing through West Hartford, and that course is what gave Racz the inspiration for her design.

Julia Racz, a senior at Conard High School, holds up her winning shirt design. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

“I incorporated the 136-mile route, including a heart for West Hartford,” Racz said.

The final design was tweaked slightly by Amy Larose, a graphic designer with the Town of West Hartford, who added the traditional Celebrate! West Hartford “star” branding and turned the route’s line into footsteps. Racz said she loved the updates.

After graduating from Conard, Racz plans to attend the University of Oregon to major in media studies and production, with hopes of working in production in the entertainment industry. She’s not a traditional artist, but signed up for Conard’s graphic arts and digital media classes because she thought they would be good preparation, especially providing background in Adobe programs.

As for why she wanted to go so far away to college, Racz said, “I love the West. I really wanted to visit the West and to have the opportunity to live there.” She figures she will eventually return to New England, but this is a good chance to experience another part of the country.

“I kind of have to pack my life into a suitcase,” she’s said, adding that she will likely use her gift certificate in part to purchase some nice pens, which don’t take up much space.

Racz has played field hockey at Conard all four years, and also did indoor track and softball in past years, but although she received one of the commemorative shirts, she probably won’t be wearing it to race. “I’m not the best at running,” she said.

The Celebrate! West Hartford t-shirt design has been created by a West Hartford Public Schools student since 2015.

“Conard’s Graphic Design program has been honored to participate in this contest for several years,” said graphics teacher Jim Genovese. “This contest allows our students in our Technology & Engineering program to apply their classroom skills – by allowing them to collaborate with peers, develop ideas, and use digital tools to finalize their design – all in support of our community,” he said.

“Julia has excelled in our program and her passion for graphic design is being recognized with this award.”

Shoham said Jerry’s Artarama is happy to continue to support the graphic design contest.

“We’re always happy to do anything to support up and coming artists,” he said. During the pandemic, art is something that has given people solace, he said. “It’s important to support that outlet.”

Both FUNd RUNS challenges will be held in June, and participants can do either, or both. The 5K can be run anywhere, and anytime between June 4-13. The Distance Challenge lasts from June 1-30, and miles logged any time during those days, in any location, will count.

The entrance fee for each event is $20, and will once again support both the Town That Care Fund – which since the COVID-19 pandemic has been more in demand than ever operating West Hartford’s Food Panty and assisting needy residents with energy bills and other services, as well as the Leisure Services Scholarship Fund, which provides children in need with funds to attend summer and vacation camp, life-saving swimming lessons, and other enrichment activities.

To register, click here.

Celebrate! West Hartford’s virtual arts & crafts show went live Tuesday, and the online marketplace will be available 24/7 through the end of the month. More information can be found here.

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