Staff Photo by Matt Hamilton / Cora Stowe, 11, with her wrapping paper design at her home on Signal Mountain.

A vintage vehicle toting home a Christmas tree navigates the prize-winning design in the Times Free Press' 2021 Lin C. Parker Wrapping Paper Design Contest.

The winning entry, which also features garlanded trees, pathways of lights and rhythmic greetings, was designed by 11-year-old Cora Stowe, a fifth-grader at Thrasher Elementary School.

Cora chose watercolor for her medium and says she spent parts of three days adding details and saturation.

"I did so many coats," she says. "I knew I had to go over it to get the color right."

Her main image, a little red car, appears six and a half times on the original artwork. Each high-roof coupe is customized with a tire holder on the back and a Christmas wreath on the front grille. The vehicles are separated by more Christmas trees, each decorated with a zigzag of red garland. Between her rows of lights appear the words "falalalala" in looping, lowercase cursive and "HO HO HO" in sturdy all caps.

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Winner of Times Free Press' 2021 Lin C. Parker Wrapping Paper Design Contest

Print readers will find Cora's design enlarged and reproduced on a newspaper broadsheet and inserted into the Dec. 12 newspaper for use as wrapping paper during the holiday season. An assortment of designs that also made the judges' lists of favorites appears on the reverse side of the page. The winner of the Readers' Choice Award can be found online at

"We were thrilled in the 20th year of this contest to see so many original designs from talented young artists," says Times Free Press Editor Alison Gerber. "The winning design is charming and fun, and we hope it will adorn gifts under many trees on Christmas Day."

"What won me over was the feeling [Cora's artwork] evoked," says Liza Blair, arts manager at Creative Discovery Museum, a contest sponsor. "It reminded me of traveling home during the holidays — the excitement, the anticipation and the joy of traveling by car during winter break to see family and friends."

Cora says her paternal grandmother, Claudia Stowe, sent her information about the gift wrap contest and urged her to enter. Weeks earlier, Cora won a pumpkin decorating contest at school for her "Joctoberfest" entry, which she painted and accessorized to resemble Joc Pederson, the Atlanta Braves' pearl-necklace-wearing outfielder.

"I do art a lot, and she thought I might win for my ideas," Cora says.

"She has a talent for detail," says mom Julie Stowe.

The announcement of her win arrived by email in dad Patrick Stowe's inbox. He gathered the rest of the family, including brothers George, 13, and Carr, 8, in the kitchen, handed his phone to Cora and asked her to read the message aloud.

"We all celebrated," says Julie Stowe. "We were excited."

Ten of the top designs, chosen anonymously from 77 entries submitted by students in grades 1-5, will be on display through December at the Creative Discovery Museum. Other sponsors of the contest are ArtsBuild and United Way of Greater Chattanooga. The organizations were tasked with designating judges for the contest and supplying prizes for a swag bag, which includes a $25 check from the newspaper.

This is the 20th year for the wrapping paper contest, a project initiated by Lin C. Parker, a longtime writer and page designer for the Times Free Press, as well as an accomplished artist. The contest was renamed in her memory after her death in September 2017.

Contact Lisa Denton at or 423-757-6281.