An essay contest to sell 47 acres of land in Whitefield didn’t receive enough entries, so refunds will be sent to those who entered.

The contest rules required entrants to pay $100 and submit an essay of no more than 200 words saying what they wanted to do with the wooded land along Route 218.

Martha Manchester, of Edgecomb, who has owned the land since 1994, extended the deadline from June 21 until Saturday because she hadn’t received enough entries. The contest rules required at least 3,000 essays to be submitted, but Manchester’s website for the contest later said she was requiring 3,500 entries. She told the Coastal Journal earlier this month that if she didn’t receive the 3,500 entries, she would lose money on the land.

When interviewed about the contest at the end of March, Manchester said she was doing it to give people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford so much land an opportunity to win the property and to try to get more than the land’s fair market value. She also wanted to be able to donate some of the earnings to charity.

Manchester, when reached by phone Tuesday, said a Kennebec Journal story about the contest that included the town’s $57,200 assessment of the land is the reason she didn’t receive enough entries, but she didn’t say how many entries she received.

“That totally killed the whole concept of trying to give away 47 acres,” she said.

If Manchester had received the 3,500 essay submissions, the contest would have brought in $325,000 before she paid taxes and after two $10,000 donations to the American Cancer Society and the Lincoln County Animal Shelter and giving $5,000 to the contest winner to help offset taxes.

Manchester wrote on the contest website that she would be refunding all entrants’ money in the next seven business days because she didn’t receive 3,000 entires. She also cautioned people interested in running similar contests, saying it was a lot of work and included the costs of an attorney, advertising and Internet fees.

The owner of the Center Lovell Inn and Restaurant ran a similar contest this year to sell the inn, which she had won in an essay contest in 1993. A couple living in the U.S. Virgin Islands won the business and the 12-acre property with their essay and $125 entry fee.

Janice Sage, who held the essay contest, received 7,255 entries, bringing in $906,875, according to a Maine State Police investigation report obtained by the Portland Press Herald.

State police investigated the contest after people who didn’t win alleged wrongdoing, but investigators determined the contest was conducted legally. Officials have said contests such as these are legal because the winners are judged on skill, not picked by chance.

Paul Koenig — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @pdkoenig

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