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Staff Photo by Robin Rudd / Seven-year old Kariyana Donev is the 2020 winner in the Chattanooga Times Free Press' Lin C. Parker Wrapping Paper Design Contest.

A home-schooled second-grader from Ocoee, Tennessee, has won the 2020 Lin C. Parker Wrapping Paper Design Contest.

Kariyana Donev, 7, drew gingerbread kids, a measuring stick, a cheery red heart and a flurry of snowflakes around a reassuring written message: "6 feet apart but still in my heart."

Along with the design's bright colors, that sweet sentiment, in a year profoundly altered by the coronavirus, "caught the judging panel's attention right away," says Dylan Chesser, special publications designer for the Times Free Press, who spearheaded the contest. "Her message of togetherness, despite physical distance, is a pertinent one, particularly at this time of year."

The message was inspired by a Christmas gift from her home-school directors.

"I got it from an ornament that my friends gave me," says Kariyana, daughter of Dony and Kathryn Donev.

Kathryn Donev says her daughter considered Santa Claus and other Christmas icons as the grounding element of the design before deciding that gingerbread kids would be easier to draw.

The gingerbread girl, wearing a green dress and a purple bow in her hair, is in the bottom left corner, separated by a bright yellow, 6-foot ruler from the gingerbread boy, in the top right corner, who's clad in red pants, a blue shirt and green bow tie. The numeral 6 that begins her written message is drawn in bright yellow and topped with a red-and-white Santa cap. The fulsome red heart has a happy smile. Kariyana colored in the bubble lettering by alternating red and green in the words at the top, then blue and purple in the words at the bottom of the page. Blue snowflakes add another colorful flourish.

This is Kariyana's second artistic triumph this season. She also won her age category in the Polk County Chamber of Commerce Coloring Contest. Students in grades 2-4 were to decorate a top hat in keeping with an "Olde Town Christmas" theme. Kathryn describes Kariyana's winning design as "a 3-D interactive pop-up hat."

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Contributed Photo / Kariyana Donev's winning entry.

The Times Free Press gift wrap contest, now in its 19th year, is open to area public, private and home-school students in grades 1-5. The young artists are tasked with drawing any original design that can be enlarged and replicated as a sheet of wrapping paper on a newspaper broadsheet. Finalists are determined by popular vote from judges representing the Times Free Press, ArtsBuild, Creative Discovery Museum and United Way of Greater Chattanooga.

Readers will find copies of Kariyana's design in Sunday's paper, along with designs by five finalists on the reverse side. Among the judges' finalists is the Readers' Choice winner, as determined by online voting. The "Joy" submission, featuring red and black buffalo plaid letters, surrounded by green holly leaves and red berries, was entered by Abby Rasnic, an 11-year-old fifth-grader.

The wrapping paper contest has been a tradition for the Times Free Press since 2002 and was renamed to memorialize its founder after her death in September 2017. Parker was a longtime writer and page designer for the newspaper, as well as an accomplished artist.

"This year's wrapping paper design competition presented its own special set of limitations," Chesser says. "Because of the pandemic, the Times Free Press made the decision to eliminate mail-in ballots and move the contest online. Despite this, the contest still generated a decent bit of attention and received entries from many talented young artists."

Email Lisa Denton at ldenton@timesfreepress.com.

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