City of Madison Heights announces winners of photo contest

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published June 26, 2018

MADISON HEIGHTS — The Madison Heights Arts and Culture Committee recently wrapped its first citywide photo contest. With more than 100 entries submitted, the professional photographers on the judging panel had much to consider. 

Each entry was on display during an exhibit at Madison Heights City Hall on June 14. The winners were also announced. In the end, 18 winners were selected across six categories. Three of them were also named grand prize winners.  

By coincidence, the grand prize winner and second overall winner — Ashley Kosmowski and Charles Prichard Jr., respectively — are a couple. Their 3-year-old son, Connor Prichard, even appears in one of the photos.

The top winners in each category include, in no particular order:

• Animals: John Baldiga, Sarah Browe, Jenevieve Sandoval.

• Nature: Ashley Kosmowski, Tih Penfil, Jack Kammerer Jr. 

• People: Kailee Hill, Kevin Pollock, Abbigail Young.

• Places: Charles Prichard Jr., Kim VanDyke, Valerie Kleinheksel.

• Public Safety: Laurie Geralds, Vita Palazzolo, Philip Sinutko. 

• Schools: Alexandra Shepherd, Makenzie Bowler, Amanda DeVries. 

The grand prize winner, Kosmowski, took a picture at the Red Oaks Nature Center. It’s a vertical shot looking across the pond toward the woods. Boulders and brush frame the reflective waters, which mirror a backdrop of trees on the opposite shore. Bright pink blossoms are beginning to bloom on the branches extending over the pond. The vivid colors contrast with the greenery beyond.

While Kosmowski is training to be a photographer for her friend’s company, she didn’t have her professional camera with her that day in May. Instead she used her smartphone and relied on her eye for good composition. 

“My son Connor and I were at the nature center walking the trails. We always love to sit on the bench right outside the nature center, and the tree was in bloom that day, so I thought it’d be a really pretty picture,” Kosmowski said. “At first I didn’t think of the contest. I just wanted to take it because I’m into nature and pretty pictures of flowers. But when I snapped it and saw it, I thought it’s the one to submit. For me, it captures the beauty and peacefulness of the place.”

She said the Red Oaks Nature Center is something of a hidden gem in Madison Heights. The nature center is sequestered away in Friendship Woods, off Hales Street, south of 13 Mile Road, just east of Dequindre Road. 

“It’s nice because it’s tucked back away from the main road, so it’s just a little getaway you don’t have to travel too far to reach,” Kosmowski said. “It’s just very beautiful, how on the trails everything is covered by the canopy of trees. And while I personally haven’t seen deer up close there, I’ve talked to many people who say they’ve seen plenty of deer, and also birds.”

She said her son loves the woods.

“My son has always loved nature. When he cried as a baby, we’d take him out in the front yard and he’d look up in the sky and everything would be fine,” Kosmowski said. “It’s nice to take him to a place like the nature center where he can run the trails and learn so many things about the world. It’s so awesome having a place like that.”

Connor himself appears in the photo that was the second overall winner, shot by Kosmowski’s boyfriend, Charles Prichard Jr. In the photo, he poses by the wall paintings of dinosaurs at Shaker’s Dairy Bar, 630 E. 12 Mile Road. The 3-year-old’s delight is clear as he stands with arms outstretched, pretending that the triceratops is gnawing on his head.

“(Connor) just loves dinosaurs,” Kosmowski said. “He was getting his first ice cream from an ice cream shop, and then there were dinosaurs over there on the wall. He loved that day. And when Connor saw the picture at the exhibit, he ran up to his dad and said, ‘That’s me!’ He knew I’d taken the other one (at the nature center) too. It was just a nice family moment to be able to share between the three of us.” 

The third overall winner was a public safety picture by Vita Palazzolo. It depicts the Madison Heights Fire Department at sunset. The front of the building is shaded from the sun, while the sky behind it is a soothing mix of pink and gold.

The 18 winning photos will be featured in an 18-month calendar, now available for preorder through the city’s website, The photos were also scheduled for display during the Pre-Fourth of July Festival in the Park on June 24, after press time, in a pop-up exhibit inside the Jaycees Building at the foot of the sled hill in Civic Center Park.

Mark Bliss, the mayor pro tem of Madison Heights and the architect of the city’s Arts and Culture Committee, said that he was “thrilled” by the response to the photo contest. 

“What surprised me the most were the amount of comments from residents who have never been inside City Hall before — they came out for the exhibit and really felt both welcomed and proud to live in our city,” Bliss said. “Many of them even submitted ideas for additional arts and culture programming, and are excited for the things our board has planned.

“Our theme for this photo contest was ‘This Is Home,’ and the pictures that our residents submitted more than captured how Madison Heights is home,” he said. “It was great to walk through the exhibit and see more than 100 photos lined up, all next to each other in City Hall. This is the best representation of the city of Madison Heights that I’ve ever seen.”

For more information about the calendar, visit