Come-See- ... What?

Celebration denied when 13-year-old's art disappears

04/22/2008 1:46 AM

04/22/2008 1:48 AM

An amphibious evanescence, or maybe a frognapping, has stunned the frog coloring world.

"Celebrate," the craft-set crystal and Hershey Kiss-wrapper adorned entry done by 13-year-old Heidi Ebeling for the annual Come-See-Me festival frog coloring contest, is gone.

"By the time of the judging, we realized one was missing," said Leane Skroban, a Come-See-Me team leader. "And this one was just beautiful. This is heartbreaking."

This year, Heidi's plan for Rock Hill frog coloring stardom was cloak and dagger style done, under a veil of secrecy.

"Top secret," Heidi said. "I thought I had it this year."

No more would Heidi play second fiddle to last year's winner in her age group -- her 13-year-old twin sister, the older sister by 30 seconds, Kaitlin.

But Heidi didn't even get a chance to compete.

There were scores of entries in several age groups. All were on public display for days near one of the Rock Hill Galleria entrances after the April 9 submission deadline. Heidi had made that deadline with an hour to spare, after spending dozens of hours making it just right.

Somehow, she suffered through all those Hershey Kisses.

On Sunday, April 13, Heidi and her family went to the mall and looked at all the entries.

"Hers really was great," said twin sister Kaitlin, who, like her sister, is home-schooled.

Even the little brother, Adam, the 11-year-old wise guy, said, "She had the best."

Organizers checked with mall officials, but nobody had seen the colored frog on the mirror. Hope was held out that maybe the family picked up the entry, Skroban said. However, organizers couldn't contact the family because Heidi's contact information was on the entry itself. Nobody knew whose colored frog on a mirror was missing.

Kaitlin received a phone call last week to be at the judging Sunday because she was a finalist. A neighbor kid did, too.

The forlorn Heidi received nothing.

Heidi has entered this contest for years, and the few dollars in potential prize money wasn't the issue. Parents Elizabeth and John Ebeling tried to resuscitate Heidi's sagging spirits.

"I thought maybe I just wasn't good enough again," Heidi said.

Sunday at the Glencairn Garden award ceremony, Heidi's mom asked organizers what happened to Heidi's frog.

"That's when I found out it was missing," Elizabeth Ebeling said. "I didn't know how to break the news to Heidi. She worked so hard on it."

Heidi took the bad news like a princess who finds the frog she kissed is no prince at all: Dismayed, but gracious.

"I don't know what happened, if somebody stole it," Heidi said. "All I want is to get my frog back."

Organizers decided to give Heidi a prize anyway. And the news of the disappearance shocked Jeff Kirby, general manager at the mall who had seen all the entries.

"That one on the mirror was beautiful," Kirby said.

The stunned Kirby graciously said he would give Heidi a mall gift certificate.

"It's a shame she didn't get recognized for what she did," Kirby said.

Maybe the frog was misplaced. Maybe it hopped away.

But maybe a scalawag absconded with this former pollywog.

If so, I hope the rotten rascal grows warts.

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