Saturday, July 21, 2012 | 2 a.m.
During the three days Las Vegas resident Lailani Albano spent designing a reusable bag for a grocery chain’s contest, she couldn’t have cared less about winning.
The 23-year-old graphic design artist for Bally Technologies was just excited to stretch her creative legs. She experimented and drafted design after design. She felt free from the corporate limits placed on her at work. When she submitted her design — computer-animated fruits and veggies backed against a light blue background — she didn’t think about the contest again.
“It was such an awesome feeling to regain my passion for graphic design,” Albano said. “At the end of actually doing my design, I thought, ‘This isn’t going that far. It’s not that great.’ But I thought, ‘What do I have to lose?’”
Then, she got the email.
Albano was one of three Las Vegas residents selected out of nearly 600 submissions to be a top-10 finalist in the Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market contest. Las Vegans Miguel Hernandez and Eimi Marritt also were selected. Each finalist receives a $100 gift card from the grocery chain and a chance to win $5,000 to spend on groceries. The true prize for both the store and winner, however, can’t be quantified.
“From what we’ve heard from (winners), their excitement is more about the fact that their artwork will be seen and sold throughout the stores in three states,” said Stephanie Patryla, Fresh & Easy neighborhood affairs manager. “Of course, they’re also excited that we give them $5,000 worth of food.”
The grocery store chain, which has stores in Nevada, California and Arizona, has conducted the contest since 2010. Patryla said each year organizers receive about 600 drawings and then narrow those down to a field of 10. Fresh & Easy reward members vote for their favorite.
Patryla said this year features the most Las Vegas residents in the finals.
Hernandez, 29, said he was ecstatic to hear his design was chosen as a finalist. He is an avid artist, often spending hours painting and drawing lavish, vibrant landscapes. He said Hawaiian sunsets, the Beatles’ song “Strawberry Fields” and the vibrant fruit found at Fresh & Easy served as inspiration for his design.
Hernandez said winning the contest would be great for his art and for free groceries, but that’s not why he wants to win. Through the years, he’s become increasingly involved in efforts to minimize waste and protect the environment. He said winning the contest would be a chance to spread the word.
“I want to be the influence, that motivation that someone gets at Fresh & Easy ... to do a double take on my artwork and say, ‘Hey, that bag is awesome. I want that reusable bag because it’s so cool,’” Hernandez said. “I want to make that impact.”
Patryla said the winner would be announced Aug. 14, and the winning bag would be released at the start of 2013. Last year’s winner was Las Vegas resident Tonya Jacobsen.
Albano said she’d be thrilled to win and help put food on the table for her family of six. If not, she won’t be heartbroken. Like many others entrants, the prize has nothing to do with the groceries.
“It’s allowed me to get back into (graphic design) and learn new techniques,” Albano said. “I’ve been able to take that and bring it back into my work and create new designs.”