Raleigh’s JC Raulston Arboretum’s annual birdhouse competition took a break from these pages several years ago.
I decided to bring it back because, frankly, I missed seeing the fanciful designs that the contestants would create for our feathered friends.
The birdhouse contest is part of the annual Raulston Blooms! celebration that was last Saturday at the N.C. State University arboretum. This year’s contest, which is designed to raise awareness about bird habitats, had about 103 entries from children and adults. Likely because I agreed to restore them to these pages, I was asked to judge this year’s event.
There were three categories for adults: serious, flights of fancy, and a special category for individuals with disabilities participating in the Pathways for People program. Serious entries are “best described as working birdhouses,” while flights of fancy entries can “best be described as decorator birdhouses.” There were four categories for children based on age.
I joined two more experienced judges to choose winners for the adult categories. The winners in this year’s adult serious and flights of fancy categories are regular contestants who between them have placed a dozen times in the competition over the years.
Smitty Harvell, 65, of Raleigh, won in the serious category for his vibrant funky birdhouse with a metal roof. He is a retired shop and drafting teacher who taught at Leesville Road and Millbrook high schools. Harvell is inspired by residential architecture and then decides: “I can make a birdhouse like that.” Harvell has placed five times in these contests.
Patrick Fullwood, 54, of Cary, scored first place in the flights of fancy category for his three-unit teardrop-shaped birdhouse that shows off his professional woodworking skills. He has placed seven times in these contests. Fullwood works for Raleigh’s Wood Products Inc., which makes high-end custom cabinets and one-of-a-kind contemporary furniture.
Fullwood says he focuses on creating a beautifully designed birdhouse, which does not mean it is not functional. Admirers just have to go looking for the trapdoor to clean out the birdhouse and for the ventilation holes. “I like to hide those things so you can focus on the design,” Fullwood said.
What are his plans for this year’s winning birdhouse? Fullwood said: “I plan to keep it unless someone wants to pay a lot of money for it.”