SWANTON — Forty years ago, Anita Michele Parah entered a contest to design the Swanton Police Department (SPD)’s new badge. Forty years later, she won.
Parah’s winning badge design eschews Swanton’s trademark swan in favor of another characteristic town image — the Missisquoi Dam.
“Just wanted to change it up,” Parah said.
The SPD and the Swanton Arts Council (SAC) celebrated Parah’s work with an unveiling ceremony on Friday.
More than a dozen people made time to attend the 4 p.m. ceremony at the Swanton Public Library, where artists and cops chatted over cookies and light refreshments.
SPD Sgt. Eugene Rich gave Parah a plaque commemorating her design, “in thanks for all her hard work and dedication.”
The SPD also gave Parah a ball cap and polo shirt.
SAC board member Joanne Reiter presented Parah with a bouquet of flowers on behalf of the SAC.
The SPD’s prior patch depicted a swan on the river.
“We’ve had the other patch for about 30 years,” Rich said at Friday’s ceremony. “It’s well-recognized. Anyone who sees a Swanton PD badge knows which department we’re from.”
But the department felt it was time for a change, Rich said, spawning a competition for SAC members to design a new badge.
The competition initially ran through last summer, but there were few entries “because everyone was very busy,” SAC co-chair Judy Paxman said. The Swanton Enhancement Project began in January 2015, and community members were knee-deep in revitalization efforts by the summer.
The contest reopened last October, following the success of a competition to design a new logo for the Tyler Greeno Fund, a local non-profit that had also invited SAC members to create its logo.
The SAC’s outreach capabilities were stronger by October. This time, the competition was advertised not just through member word of mouth but through Facebook and the local schools as well.
Paxman said the contest ultimately inspired about a dozen entries.
“We had a lot of submissions for artwork,” Rich said. “Anita submitted one that — the consensus in the department was, ‘This is the one we want to go with for our department badge.’”
Rich said that the SPD then held a meeting to determine which of Parah’s border designs the department preferred. She had designed the badge with two possible borders, an old-fashioned metal badge outline and a more modern, navy crest. The SPD decided on the navy crest.
Parah continued revising the design during the gradual digitization process, preparing for its translation from paper to patch.
She made subtle changes in the design, like turning flowers along the river from simple dots to what look like pinwheels, and finally removing the flowers altogether.
She also changed the color of the word “VERMONT” at the bottom of the badge, and darkened tree colors for deeper contrast.
Rich said these were “the kind of subtle changes only an artist would make, because I’d be going, ‘That’s nice. Let’s go with that.’”
Parah’s victory in this competition has been a long time coming. She entered a similar SPD competition to design a new badge 40 years ago, when she was an art student at Missisquoi Valley Union High School.
“After all these years, I was given another opportunity to submit a patch design,” Parah said. “I thought, ‘What the heck, I’ll try it again.’ Imagine my surprise.”
Her design will now be integrated into the SPD uniforms.