Odd-Shaped Gifts Challenge Gift Wrap Contestants in Bryant Park Faceoff

By Mary Johnson on November 30, 2012 3:39pm 

MIDTOWN — That's a wrap!

The country's most talented gift wrapper was crowned in Bryant Park Friday morning after a grueling two-hour competition during which eight contestants from across the U.S. wrapped a board game, an oversized rubber duck, a tuba and a model airplane with an 8-foot wingspan.

Lia Griffith, of Portland, Ore., earned the title after decoratively encasing the oddly shaped items in ribbons, bows, tissue and wrapping paper. Her prize? $10,000.

The contest, appropriately sponsored by tape manufacturing giant Scotch, is now in its 16th year, and participants this year, including one from Park Slope, brought with them enviable wrapping resumes.

Michelle Beshaw, a contestant from Park Slope who works at the Brooklyn Museum, has been wrapping for more than 40 years and once wrapped a chair to look like it was enclosed in a giant slipcover.

Another contestant claimed to have once wrapped a vacuum to look like a Christmas tree, while another disguised a guitar as a person. And one, Carol Masiclat, from Syracuse, N.Y., has appeared on Martha Stewart's talk show specifically to showcase her gift-wrapping prowess.

The contestants have also wrapped gifts intended for celebrity recipients. Sheryl Oberman, for Chicago, for one, has wrapped gifts for Oprah, while Brenda Guerrero, of Los Angeles, has decoratively appointed presents for Khloe Kardashian.

The contest was split into three rounds, each one timed. Before a crowd of cheering friends and family members, each wrapper tried her hand at stylishly — and speedily — wrapping the items.

"I didn't expect to be so nervous," said Beshaw, who said she suffered from shaky hands — a gift wrapper's worst nightmare — during the first round of the contest.

"I really got off to a rough start," she explained. "The duck was a lot bigger than I had imagined it."

Beshaw has been wrapping for 40 years, and her conquests include gigantic stuffed animals and pieces of furniture.

"I like round or cylindrical stuff because you can use the shape to make it interesting," said Beshaw, who explained that her passion for creatively encasing gifts comes from her mother.

When her mom passed away, Beshaw said she found little bits of wrapping paper tucked away around her home — little remnants of gifts that her mother had saved throughout the years.

"She was really special," Beshaw said.

Despite her passion, Beshaw did not make the second round of the competition, which forged ahead Friday morning when the top four finalists were tasked with wrapping a tuba.

Those top four were then whittled down to two: Shelly Dozier-McKee, of Atlanta, Ga., and Lia Griffith, of Portland, Ore.

The finalists were given 15 minutes to wrap a massive model airplane with an 8-foot wingspan. Onlookers took turns sipping hot chocolate and chanting things like "Tie that bow!" and "Wrap it up!" The threat of paper cuts loomed large, but each contestant managed to finish strong, with a few seconds to spare.

When the clock finally wound down and the judges surveyed the transformed model airplanes, Griffith was crowned the country's most gifted wrapper.

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