Alongside “A”-Mountain, a saguaro in the sun and a celebratory horny toad, a Barrio Viejo front door now takes its place in Tucson history. The thing is, none of these are real objects; each is a winning illustration of the Annual Tucson Birthday Stamp Design Contest. 

Every summer for the contest, the Postal History Foundation, located in Tucson, opens entries to Tucson-area kids aged five to 17 years old. The winners were announced at Tucson’s 243rd birthday party at Old Pueblo Station on Aug. 20. In attendance was local graphic designer Don Regole of Regole Designs, who discussed the importance of art with the young illustrators. 

This year’s grand prize winner was Serena Hsu, 14, a Catalina Foothills High School freshman. The rich history and views of the Barrio Viejo neighborhood inspired Hsu to draw the stamp.

“I was really excited to join the contest,” she said. “One of my friends was a past winner.”

She illustrated the stamp with colored pencils, depicting a red front door between a cactus and hanging chilies. In the corner is a small kokopelli on a clay pot. 

“She’s always loved drawing and painting,” said Anita Tsai, Hsu’s mother. 

Hsu sought inspiration for her drawings by looking at different areas around town. When she ultimately saw the stylings of Barrio Viejo, she knew what she wanted to draw.

“I like the vibrant colors they have in Barrio Viejo,” Hsu said.

Hsu’s illustration was selected as the grand winner, but 14 other local students also won honors for their drawings in the competition. Their drawings depicted various desert flora and fauna: tarantulas, coyotes, scorpions, snakes, barrel cacti and of course saguaros. 

Prior to the competition, the family received a call congratulating Hsu on winning, but they didn’t disclose she won grand prize. This made the unveiling even more exciting. 

“I didn’t expect my drawing to win,” Hsu said. “So when I found out that I did win, I was kind of freaking out.” 

When Hsu was announced as the grand prize winner, the entire family went out and bought her stamps. 

“It was so exciting,” Tsai said. “I’ve already purchased so many of those stamps.” 

The stamps are legal custom USPS stamps and can be used for mailing letters. Stamps and collectible envelopes can be purchased or ordered from the Postal History Foundation. Proceeds benefit the Youth Education through Stamps (YES) program.

The stamp drawing contest isn’t the only children’s activity the Postal History Foundation organizes. They also host a Stamp Camp for kids to offset summer boredom with a variety of learning activities, including history, math, geography, and art.

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