Join the party!

Lauren Williams Staff Writer

October 6, 2013

Prefer the treats rather than the tricks of Halloween? Then join The Sampson Independent’s latest online contest, a virtual costume party held at where the community has the opportunity to show off its best costumes, vote for its favorites, and possibly win a sweet Halloween treat.

“We are thrilled to be able to once again offer the Halloween costume contest. Both our online visitors and our newspaper readers love the contest,” shared Sherry Matthews, editor and community relations manager of the Independent, “and many have been active participants, either entering, voting and sometimes both.”

Between now and Nov. 2 the Independent and its key advertising sponsors are inviting everyone to join the festivities by beginning to come up with creative costume ideas and then snapping pictures of themselves, their family, or their friends in their best Halloween dress.

Once taken, photos can be submitted to the contest by visiting the Independent’s website, looking under the Local Features tab, and clicking on Contests. Just click on the Virtual Costume Party logo and follow the directions to upload and enter a photo.

“We encourage people to enter and have fun doing so,” said Matthews.

Once submissions are in, voting will begin Nov. 3 where online visitors can cast votes — one per day — for their favorite photos in five categories which include funniest, cutest, scariest, most original and best overall costume. Winners will be announced the following week.

As with the Independent’s Cutest Kids and Cutest Pets contests, prizes will be awarded to winners in each of the five categories. In addition to bragging rights, the best overall costume winner will receive $150 from title sponsor Ford of Clinton. Winners in all other categories will receive $50 from the contest’s various other sponsors which include Clinton Grain (funniest category), Matthews Drugs (cutest category), Ellis Lewis (scariest category), and Stacy’s Florist and Gifts (most original category).

These sponsors are excited about the contest, now in its third year, and urge the community, especially youngsters, not to miss out on all the fun to be had.

“It’s really something for the children, something that they really enjoy,” said title sponsor Larry McPhail of Ford of Clinton. I like supporting things and attaching my name to things that are for children. That’s the main thing.”

“I believe it also encourages family involvement and family values,” he continued, explaining how kids, particularly the young ones, will probably need to go to their parents to have their pictures taken of them in their costumes and to get the photos submitted to the online contest.

“I just want to support our youth because one day, you know when they’re older, they’ll be supporting us,” added McPhail.

Stacy McNeil of Stacy’s Florist and Gifts, sponsor of the most original category, shared that the contest’s creativity and how it can serve to encourage a creative spirit in children is one of the reasons she wanted to be a sponsor.

“It gives kids a chance to be more creative and you just never know what they’re going to do. It’s amazing some of the things they can come up with,” she said.

That creativity is something she know is important to foster because she can relate to it herself in her own work. “I’m a florist and we never do the same thing twice so it’s all about creativity with us too.”

In addition to being a fun, festive contest for the entire community, the contest and its many advertising opportunities also serves as a way for local businesses to promote their services and products.

“We saw it as a way to help make the community more aware that we’re here and that we’re here to serve them. That’s what we’re all about and we’ve been doing it for a lot of years,” noted Beverly Gunter of Clinton Grain, sponsor of the funniest category. “We sell a lot of different things and can really help the community meet their animal’s needs.”

For these advertisers, the reasons for sponsoring the Virtual Costume Contest for the community are numerous and varied, and Matthews is thankful that these local businesses see the many benefits of being involved in the community.

“Like the Cutest Kids and Cutest Pets contests, the costume contest allows interaction with the community in a fun and positive way…We especially want to thank our advertising sponsors. Without them the contest would not be possible,” Matthews stressed. “We encourage readers to frequent these advertisers, support them and be sure to thank them for helping provide the contest to the community.”

Lauren Williams can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 117 or via email at