WHITEFIELD, Maine — The essay contest initiated in October 2014 for a 47-acre parcel in Whitefield was canceled at the end of July due to a lack of applications, landowner Martha Manchester said.
With a $100 entry fee and a 200-word essay, applicants had the ability to win ownership of a 47-acre parcel on Route 218.
Due to a lack of advertising and what Manchester described as negative publicity, the contest fell short of its goal of 3,000 applicants, Manchester said. With $20,000 of the contest’s earnings reserved for charity, $5,000 reserved for the contest winner, and the capital gains taxes Manchester would have had to pay, Manchester would have ended up losing money on the contest, she said.
“It was worth a try, but I definitely didn’t get enough applications and I was going to end up making less than what I paid for the land,” Manchester said.
According to Manchester, applications declined and she began to receive negative feedback after the Kennebec Journal published an article with Whitefield’s assessed value for the land, which was $57,200.
If Manchester achieved her goal of 3,000 applications, the contest would have brought in $300,000.
The Kennebec Journal did not include the fair market value for the land, which was $147,000, Manchester said. The article also did not mention that Manchester would have to pay a 33 percent capital gains tax on the money received from the contest, she said.
“The thought was to make more money than I would have from selling the land and give someone an awesome story to tell their kids, but [the Kennebec Journal] made me look greedy,” Manchester said. “It deterred people from applying. Applications tanked after that. They really killed it.”
The coverage, coupled with the inability to afford advertising fees to get the word out about the contest, resulted in the contest falling short of its application goal of 3,000, Manchester said.
According to Manchester, as of July 31 all entry fees were returned. “Running the contest was a full-time job,” Manchester said. Between emails, phone calls, social networking and logging applications, some weeks Manchester spent 100 hours facilitating the contest, she said.
“It was a lot of work to not make any money, but you don’t know unless you try,” Manchester said.
Manchester is currently exploring other options for the 47-acre parcel. Manchester, an Edgecomb resident, purchased the land when she was in her 20s and has sat on it since, she said. The parcel was initially 50 acres and had a house, but some acreage and the house was sold, she said.
She is now researching different options for the parcel, which include building a house on the property to use as a rental, building a storage unit on the parcel or selling it.
Manchester is even exploring the possibility of using the property as a potential location for a solar farm. “I’m going to explore all my options,” she said.
Other essay contests to win land or property are springing up throughout the state, with an essay contest being held to win ownership of the Blue Hill Inn and another essay contest to win ownership of a schooner in the Camden area, Manchester said.
“Anyone who wants to do it, I wish them luck,” Manchester said. “I don’t think people realize how much work it is. I’m thankful it’s over.”