Helena hosts successful jigsaw puzzle championship

Published 3:34 pm Tuesday, November 28, 2023

By DONALD MOTTERN | Staff Writer 

HELENA – Offering wide displays of patience, skill, teamwork and competitive spirit, Helena played host to a Jigsaw Puzzle Championship on Nov. 19. The event drew in puzzle enthusiasts from around the state, and brought in participants from as far as Decatur.

All in all, the event, which was held at the Helena Sports Complex, saw a total of 46 puzzlers come together to put their skills to the test.

The genesis of this competition occurred when Ron Holly, who has been running the Puzzle Exchange in the Helena Caboose and Welcome Center for the past five years, developed a desire to organize a city competition reminiscent of the Georgia Puzzle Championship in Atlanta.

He further discussed this plan with Bob Van Loan, assistant governor of Rotary International’s Area 9, and also brought Helena City Councilmember Hewy Woodman to help organize and plan the event.

This year’s turnout resulted in the event being one of the largest puzzle competitions in Central Alabama. Participants were sectioned off into two-person teams and tasked with the assembly of a 500-piece puzzle.

For this year’s competition, the completed puzzle featured an image of the Helena Caboose fully decorated for Christmas. A sight which will be fully recreated following the city’s annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony on Friday, Dec. 1.

“With so many competitions focused on physical prowess, it was exciting to host one based on mental aptitude,” Woodman said. “To solve the puzzles quickly, these competitors must have strong logical thinking skills. We saw teenagers and senior citizens competing on the same level.”

Teams were granted up to three hours to complete their puzzles, but the top contenders demonstrated their skills by finishing in significantly less time.

Claiming the first-place title was the team of Julie Sund and Linda Johnson, who completed the puzzle in 73 minutes.

Following closely behind were Blake and Reagan Mishoe, who secured second place with a time of 76 minutes.

Fin Unnoppet and Jacob Steveson claimed the bronze by completing their puzzle in 85 minutes.

Winners didn’t just earn bragging rights but were also rewarded for their dedication and display of skill. Sund and Johnson received a physical trophy courtesy of Nelson Creations. All teams in the top three also received cash prizes for their outstanding puzzle-solving achievements.

The success of this year’s event has left event organizers and local puzzle enthusiasts awaiting its return next year.

Organizers also assure that plans are already in motion to expand the championship, promising an even more exciting and challenging experience for participants and spectators alike.

Those interested in staying updated on future events can follow the Helena Puzzle Exchange on Facebook.