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Kreasha Imus (left) and Lyndsi Hackett display their ‘most creative’ display at Gering Town Hall for this year’s Old West Balloon Fest decoration competition.

Christopher Borro, Gering Courier

Four local businesses won ribbons for this year’s downtown window decorating competition in commemoration of the Old West Balloon Fest.

Scottsbluff’s Indulgence Hair Salon won the award for ‘Hottest Hot Air Balloon Theme Window’. Three Gering buildings won the other prizes. The ‘Most Host Community Themed’ award went to Infinite Medical Spa, while Gering Town Hall’s decorations were honored as ‘Best Creative Presentation’.

The Platte Valley Companies building in Gering won an honorable mention for its decorations.

“We always invite businesses to greet pilots because it’s the first thing they see when they come to town,” county tourism manager Brenda Leisy said.

Stores in Scottsbluff, Gering, Mitchell and Morrill could enter the contest.

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Ten companies participated this year, having approximately two weeks to plan and design their chosen designs. Several others made their own window decorations but did not fill out contest forms.

Spa, Salon and City Hall Win Old West Balloon Fest Window Decorating Contest

The Infinite Medical Spa team of (lr) Jenn Schlothauer, Halee Brown and Gia Strachan decorated an award-winning window display for this year’s contest. Schlothauer’s daughter, Allison Baer (holding a ribbon) helped them paint it.

Christopher Borro/Gering Courier

Hair salon Indulgence was one such business that only missed the competition deadline by a day last year.

“We had similar decorations last year where we had plants and balloons, but we couldn’t save them because we painted them,” owner Tanya Bosche explained. “So I just wanted to do something consistent with what we have here, which is very bohemian…so I chose balloons that matched that neutral color scheme.”

She said she loves being part of a community that shows such enthusiasm for local events.

“I just hope this inspires more businesses to support what’s happening in our community,” Bosche added.

Three Morrill County judges were asked to determine the winners in each category. They went from storefront to storefront on August 1, analyzing eligible designs.

The windows were judged on different criteria for the three categories.

“Some of the things discussed were whether the window had a welcoming design, how colorful it was, or whether it was quirky and unique,” Leisy said.

The judges also considered the effort that went into the design, how attractive it was when viewed from the street, and how well it fit with the hot air balloon party theme.

Each category winner received a shiny blue ribbon, while the honorable mention received a green ribbon to display. Leisy distributed them on Monday, August 8.

“It’s really more for bragging than anything else,” she said. “And we want them to celebrate the balloons as well. This event is very important to our community.

For the team at Infinite Medical Spa, their decorations were a group effort. Their main artistic goal was to incorporate the Scotts Bluff National Monument in some way.

“Growing up with the old balloons back then, I guess that’s what you always thought about – the balloons flying over the monument and so on,” nurse practitioner Jenn Schlothauer said.

Schlothauer, RN Gia Strachan, receptionist Halee Brown and Schlothauer’s daughter, Allison Baer worked together for several days to mount their paintings and decorations. Their art includes several hanging balloons made from floating lanterns, ropes and baskets as well as a large decorative mural.

It was the first time the spa had entered the competition since it opened last month.

“The three of us had worked together at a previous company and now we are together again. … We just wanted to have fun and draw attention to our storefront,” Schlothauer said. “…It’s nice when your hard work pays off.”

Other windows had been decorated for the contest in the past. The town hall in Gering, for example, was decorated two years ago.

This year, Lyndsi Hackett and Kreasha Imus, administrators of the Gering Police Department, produced half of the exhibit. Gering City Clerk Kathy Welfl completed the other half.

“It was like, clandestine, because I had drawn a cute little sun like a balloon and I went out to show her (Imus) my sketch and on her computer she had googled ‘suns that look like balloons to “hot air”, Hackett said. The pair also added cloud balloons.

They wanted to include a police cruiser, the Scotts Bluff National Monument, and a boxcar. One of the officers sketched the design with a white pencil. Then Imus and Hackett spent about eight hours painting everything.

Hackett then added a tree because city police chief George Holthus asked him to try his hand at a Bob Ross-style tree.

“I might have done a happy little dance,” Hackett said, when she recounted how they won an award. Imus said it was exciting to represent the community.

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