, Salem, MA

December 19, 2012

Salem family wins trip to Austria, thanks to local voters online

By Bethany Bray

---- — SALEM — In a few months, the Schild family — Leanne, Herbert and their 7-year-old twins, Alexander and Maria — will be boarding a plane to Austria.

It’s a trip that was made possible, in part, by the family’s hometown of Salem.

Leanne Schild won a trip to Salzburg, Austria, through a recent online contest sponsored by the Visit Salzburg tourism office, beating out nine other finalists from across the U.S. What tipped the scales in her favor was the nearly 1,000 votes she received, mostly from the Salem community.

“It’s thanks to Salem,” said Schild. “I was really, really touched by that. ... It’s really nice to see that people cared about this person from Salem.”

Once Schild found out she was a finalist, she posted a message on Facebook asking friends to vote for her to win the trip. They did, as did their friends, and friends of friends. Even Mayor Kim Driscoll joined in the effort.

Schild was trailing another finalist through the four-day contest, but a flurry of votes — more than 600 — in the last 24 hours clinched the prize.

In the end, Schild’s total was 992 votes, 25 more than the runner-up.

“I still can’t even believe that I won a trip to Europe for the full family,” Schild said. “... It was quite a social media phenomenon.”

Now, when Schild is out in the community, people she doesn’t know, but who voted for her online, come up to her and congratulate her on winning the trip.

The Schilds are scheduling their trip to Salzburg for late May. They’ll have one week, all expenses paid, in Salzburg, including airfare, hotel, meals and admission to sightseeing attractions.

The trip will be a homecoming, of sorts, for the couple.

Herbert Schild is a native of Vienna; Leanne met him when she spent a semester in Austria for a college study-abroad program.

The Schilds plans to spend an extra week in Vienna to visit Herbert’s family in Austria. It will be the second time the Schild twins have visited Austria; the first they don’t remember because they were 17 months old.

Needless to say, the twins are very excited.

“For a family of four, it’s really hard to get back,” said Schild. “... I’m very excited for (the twins) to see it and experience it all.”

Schild said she’s most looking forward to “showing my kids part of my husband’s culture, but also part of a beautiful area of Europe that I fell in love with as an exchange student.”

Salzburg is famous as the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and home of the von Trapp family from “The Sound of Music.”

Several scenes from the 1965 film were filmed in and around Salzburg.

It was Schild’s love of “The Sound of Music” that fueled a 250-word essay she wrote to enter last month’s Visit Salzburg contest. Schild “fell in love” with Austria watching the movie as a child, she said.

Contestants were asked to describe what they would do if they had one week to spend with the von Trapp family.

Schild based her essay on the film’s song “Do-Re-Mi,” listing an activity they could do for each note of the scale — from a hike in the mountains to visiting the church where Maria and Capt. von Trapp were married.

Her essay won her a spot as one of 10 finalists, out of a field of 750 entrants.

Leanne Schild works for the Peabody Essex Museum and is active with the Salem Education Foundation and Parents United Salem.

Herbert Schild is a business consultant for EMC.

The Schild twins attend Saltonstall School in Salem.