For the next week, the store windows of downtown Leesburg will be filled with ghosts, witches, bats and an assortment of other scary creatures, courtesy of local teens engaged in a friendly competition.
Teams of art students from three Leesburg high schools — Heritage, Loudoun County and Tuscarora — are competing in a Halloween art contest sponsored by the Leesburg Downtown Business Association.
“It’s a good way to get the students involved in public art, which the town is very interested in, and to promote what’s around town,” said Jo Dunn, co-owner of Hopps Art Lounge.
Leesburg used to have students decorate windows for Halloween years ago, and the downtown business association decided to bring back the tradition this year.
About 45 businesses agreed to participate, so each high school group has been assigned 15 businesses to decorate, Dunn said. The students are free to come up with their own designs with a Halloween or fall theme, she said.
“The only thing we ask is that it be family-friendly,” Dunn said. “Nothing gory.”
“It’s a fun way to involve the whole community,” said Sola Pallotta, owner of the Very Virginia shop on South King Street. She urged everyone to come vote for their favorite window. Votes are being taken online and at participating stores, she said.
The school that accumulates the most votes will win bragging rights, Pallotta said, emphasizing that it is a “friendly art competition.”
“They’re competing, but they’re all working together, too,” said Maryanna Conboy, owner of the Sugar Magnolia boutique on South King Street, who chairs promotions for the downtown business association.
Hopps Art Lounge is sponsoring a separate contest to encourage people to see all the downtown businesses. The first person to take a selfie with all of the decorated windows and post the pictures online will get a prize, Dunn said, adding that the next 10 will receive smaller prizes.
The art contest was already drawing young people to downtown Leesburg last week, as dozens of teens converged on businesses after school, paints and brushes in hand. Working mostly in teams of two or three, they found their assigned stores and set to work, trying to capture the spirit of Halloween with an array of jack-o’-lanterns, goblins, spiderwebs and other designs.
The decorations will be on display for the Leesburg Kiwanis Halloween parade Saturday, and people can vote for their favorite decorations all week, Pallotta said.
Barnes is a freelance writer.