FLORENCE — Ashley Lamm Rogers knew when she decided to enter the 2019 W.C. Handy Music Festival design competition that she wanted her entry to be different.

And it was. In fact, it was different from all the other winning posters from the festival's 37-year history. It was even different from the poster of 2017, which was also Rogers's work.

The two-time contest winner said this year was even more special, as she took what, for her, was an unusually long amount of time to complete the design.

This year's festival is July 19-28 and her artwork will be its face — on posters, brochures, T-shirts and all other official Handy festival marketing materials.

The winning design, unveiled Thursday, features Rogers's sketch of W.C. Handy at the piano with a trumpet in hand. Even the color combination is unique with vibrant orange, teal blue and green.

For her efforts, Rogers, who his originally from Florence but currently resides in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, received a check for $500.

The 14-year veteran graphic designer described her winning artwork as more hands-on than usual.

"I always research my projects and I started with this in February," Rogers said. "I found this photo of Handy and started sketching it. I totally got into the project. I even turned up the jazz music.

"I knew I wanted to do something different," she said. "I like being different, and I knew this was a departure from what we'd had in the past."

Using a linoleum cut and block process, she digitized her design. The whole process took about a week, she said. 

She said she believes her connection to Florence as her hometown made a difference in the art she produced.

"I just felt it wasn't just another design competition," she said. "It was about the essence of Handy, and I really tried to capture that."

Alison Stanfield, of Florence-Lauderdale Tourism, said the Music Preservation Society's selection committee judged the entries on merit, suitability as a visual image, originality, and how well the design reflects the spirit of the festival.

"We have some amazing entries every year, but sometimes one just rises to the top and this was it," Stanfield said. "I don't think we've ever had a design like this. It's a standout."

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