Marbletown teenager Hudson Rowan was presented with the Pride of Ulster County Award at a meeting of the Ulster County Legislature on Tuesday, October 18. Rowan won the award for his submission in the second annual Ulster County “I Voted” sticker contest, which went viral earlier this year.
Rowan earned over 228,200 votes and 93 percent of all votes cast in the online 2022 Ulster County Board of Elections contest with his sticker design, which eschewed traditional patriotic motifs in favor of a wild-eyed human head on insect legs rendered in bold psychedelic colors.
Rowan was honored by the Legislature, including Eric Stewart (D-Hurley and Marbletown) and Megan Sperry (D-Towns of Esopus and New Paltz), the latter teaching Rowan in a program at the Woodstock Film Festival Youth Lab.
“I would get a phone call: ‘Hudson’s going to be late today, the New York Times is here’,” Sperry said. “‘Hudson has to leave early today because he has an interview with the Washington Post’. And you can’t get mad, because the kid is amazing…I just want to say to Hudson, this is an amazing thing that you’ve done, but let this not be the peak of your career.”
The other five finalists in the county’s contest also received impressive vote tallies, with fellow Marbletown residents, 14-year old Wendy Stewart and 13-year old Phoebe Stewart, receiving around 7,400 and 1,500 votes respectively. Also among the finalists were 18-year old New Paltz resident Kaeden Bredberg (2,400 votes), 18-year old New Paltz resident Shafil Sabbir (1,200 votes), and a 15-year old from Gardiner named Melissa (1,800 votes), whose last name is not public.
The viral popularity of Hudson Rowan’s design and the “I Voted” sticker contest is a good thing, said Ashley Dittus (D), who alongside John Quigley (R) is an election commissioner on the Ulster County Board of Elections. The pair presented Rowan with a roll of stickers featuring his design, along with art supplies.
“It’s appropriate that we honor you with the Pride of Ulster (County) Award as you have created with your sticker positive attention for Ulster County, and more broadly to the act of voting and participation in democracy,” said Dittus. “Many voters across the country and overseas from all political parties have reached out to our office to inquire about you and your art and to thank you for creating something that sparked joy in an otherwise bleak political landscape.”
Dittus said pundits have speculated that Rowan’s sticker design and the attention it garnered could boost turnout in the midterm elections next month.
“While that remains to be seen, what we do know is that you have inspired many conversations about voting and how election officials like myself and Commissioner Quigley can and should engage in a meaningful way with the young people we serve,” Dittus said. “Recently, our office was contacted by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to partner on a collaboration to encourage other election officials across the country to launch similar programs of their own, all thanks to you and your colorful creation.”
“Hudson’s off-the-wall, multi-colored, grinning head on spidery legs design won the contest
hands-down and went viral internationally, giving Hudson, his parents, Marbletown and Ulster County widespread notoriety and acclaim,” said Stewart. “I can’t help but wonder what we should next expect from this extraordinary artist and budding graphic designer.”
Legislative Chair Tracey Bartels said Rowan’s design was successful, in part, because it was relatable.
“The Legislature is honored to recognize Hudson’s ‘I Voted’ sticker design that has struck such a deep nerve not only in Ulster County, but across the country,” Bartels said. “Hudson’s crazed, wild-eyed spider robot creature has genuinely tapped into what it feels like to participate in our democracy. I hope that this sticker will increase midterm election turnout. Hudson has certainly ignited a conversation.”
Rowan briefly spoke at the presentation on Tuesday night.
“I just want to say thank you for everyone for this support and this opportunity to be here today,” he said. “It means a lot to me and thank you guys so much.”
Voters across Ulster County will receive a sticker featuring Rowan’s design when they head to the polls on Tuesday, November 9.