KEARNEYSVILLE – An idea bloomed last spring when David Arroniz spotted a tree in front of Macel Dailey’s Childs Road home.
For weeks, he’d been on the lookout for a terrific image to enter in West Virginia’s annual “Roadsides in Bloom” contest. Then one morning, headed to work at the probation office in Loudoun County, Va., he spied Dailey’s cherry tree, suddenly in full, magnificent bloom.
“As soon as I turned the corner, I knew this was the shot,” the El Paso, Texas, native explained. “The way the cherry blossoms were draping down – I thought it was just amazingly beautiful.”
So early the next morning as he set off for the office, Arroniz took time to stop in front of Dailey’s home, hop onto the stone wall that edges the front of her property and create an image that the “Roadsides in Bloom” judges later would deem the best of all this year’s submissions.
As luck would have it, Childs Road was under a heavy fog that morning, muting the background behind the tree and lending and lending Arroniz’s composition a dreamlike quality.
“The heavy fog wasn’t a detriment – it actually added something extra,” said Arroniz, who lives in Kearneysville with his wife, Lisa Linn Arroniz, and their 11-year-old son, Brandon.
Not only did the judges select Arroniz as one of the competition’s 13 winners, but they gave his photograph their grand prize – and the coveted spot on the calendar’s cover.
The free calendar, produced by the state Department of Environmental Protection and the state Department of Transportation, is mailed by request each December to West Virginians and others who request it. The state prints 25,000 copies of the full-color calendar.
Arroniz’s prize: Bragging rights, of course, along with 12 copies of the calendar to share with family and friends.
He plans to give several to Dailey, whom he had not met until after he learned he’d won. “I really should have come in and gotten her permission first,” he said. “But it was fun to get to tell her that her tree had won the competition for me.”
For Dailey, a twice-widowed mother of six with 11 grandkids and another eight great-grandchildren, the news that her cherry tree was a champion left her tickled pink.
“That tree was a gift from my oldest son four years ago,” said Dailey, who has lived on Childs Road since 1993. “When he asked me where we should plant it, I told him we had to put it where everybody could see it.”
While this is the first time her tree has triumphed in a contest, Dailey said praise for it is nothing new. She regularly hears from neighbors and passersby who say they love seeing her tree blossom come spring. Her yard also is home to dogwoods, hemlocks and other trees.
Family members often surprise her with seedlings as gifts on Mother’s Day and for other special events. It’s a good choice for her, she said. “I like having beautiful trees for everyone to enjoy,” the Sutton native said.
While Arroniz was this year’s sole “Roadsides in Bloom” winner from the Eastern Panhandle, he’s long been a fan of another local wildlife photographer – Lisa Arroniz’s work snagged spots in the West Virginia calendar for four straight years starting in 2007.
“My wife is an incredible photographer,” Arroniz said. “I know about the contest because of her and she also helped me edit my photos and even mailed them in for me. I owe her so much.”
In the contest’s 10-year history, there’s been only one other cover winner from Jefferson County. Dawn Welsh of Kearneysville took the top prize in the 2004 contest.
For the 2013 calendar, two months of the year show images taken in Hillsboro in Pocahontas County. The other 10 photographs were taken by residents of Charleston, Beckley, Webster Springs, Franklin (Pendleton County), Cool Ridge (Raleigh County), Elkview (Kanawha County), Hambleton (Tucker County), Alkol (Lincoln County), Ridgeley (Mineral County) and Culloden (a community split between Cabell and Putnam counties).
Some of the calendar images show wildflowers growing naturally along state roads as well as in the Operation Wildflower beds planted by the state Division of Highways.
To get one of the calendars, go online to dep.wv./gov/dlr/reap/ow or call 800-322-5530. Another option: email the request along with your name and address to firstname.lastname@example.org