Seven creative model lighthouses made in Norwalk are helping to light the way for visitors during the 12th annual “Festival of Lighthouses Contest” at The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk.
Visitors can follow these homemade beacons through the galleries and cast a vote for their favorite. The lighthouse that gets the most votes wins $1,500. There are cash awards for five runners-up too.
- Courtenay Austin, one of four Norwalk “veterans” of the Aquarium contest, always creates a wildy non-traditional lighthouse. Indeed, her entry this year, “Go Green!,” consists of five levels of green plastic bottles, lit from within with white lights up a central core.
- One of the entrants, Robert Kuchta, passed away Nov. 6, two days before the scheduled delivery of his lighthouse to the Aquarium. The retired art teacher from Cloonan Middle School in Stamford was 63 years old. His lighthouse was delivered to the Aquarium by his son, Ian, and remains in the contest.
Kuchta’s entry, titled “For the Birds,” is a tapering eight-sided lighthouse that is painted to suggest an older brick beacon that has seen a few coats of whitewash. Ivy grows up the exterior, and fanciful little birds perch on most of the windows up the side and also on the rocks and keeper’s house below.
- Suzanne and Jeff Bosco's “Shark Way” is a white column lighthouse topped by a red lantern. Windows trace the imagined stairway inside. It stands on a rock base against a turbulent blue sea, all of which sits atop a home aquarium tank that the Boscos decorated inside and out with colorful aquatic plants and several prowling sharks.
- Billy Ensign’s “Keeper of Dreams,” made entirely of gingerbread and frosting, is lending a heavenly holiday aroma to the Aquarium. The tall tapering lighthouse, built to appear to be made from bricks of gingerbread, is topped by a light that looks like an ice-cream cookie sandwich. A puff of cotton smoke drifts out of the keeper’s gingerbread house. White-frosting snow covers the lighthouse island, which is populated by gingerbread people, dogs, cats, seals and dolphins.
- Shar Landers is also a regular contest entrant, creating decorative designs in her lighthouses by punching many delicate holes in sheets of tin. Her wins include second place in 2008, fourth place in 2010 and fifth place last year. This year’s “Sight to Be Seen” is a three-tiered white beacon, with beads of light coming through tree designs in the tin on the lowest level. A second level has similar designs made from pressed aluminum. And the top piece suggests white clapboards, with a painted bare-tree motif.
- Jason Larche is in the contest for a second year. His “Le Tour Larche” is an intricate structure that suggests two levels of masonry rock in its base, supporting two wooden levels above. Each level has doors and/or windows. In addition to the crowning light of the lighthouse, the upper-level windows flicker with an orange glow, suggesting a fireplace inside. The lighthouse sits atop a verdant rocky hillside.
- Jo Stecker took home the second-place prize last year, in her first year of entering. Her “Lighthouse Inn & Tavern” this year is a fully furnished – and clearly popular – destination. The green-and-white-striped lighthouse is almost secondary to all the action on the inn’s waterfront deck – with guests playing games, fishing, sunbathing, grilling and picnicking. Peek inside the shingled inn to see each room fully imagined, down to the guests’ flip-flops on the floor and dishes in the sink.
- Katie Keating’s parents, Sea and Ivy, entered the contest in 2011 & 2012, and she takes up the challenge this year with help from Giuffre. Her “Millstone Tower” is a six-sided lighthouse that tapers up to the beacon light, neatly tucked under a gazebo-style roof. Holiday wreaths cut a spiral path up the outside, while snowflakes dust the scene below of trees, deer and a waterwheel.
Rules of the Aquarium lighthouse contest are kept to a minimum to allow for maximum creativity. Lighthouses must be 3 to 6 feet tall and have a working light, and may not include animal remains, such as shells.
Besides the contest’s $1,500 top award, other prizes are: $750 for second place, $375 for third; $300 for fourth; $225 for fifth; and $150 for sixth. Winners will be announced at an evening reception on Jan. 23.
For more details about Maritime Aquarium exhibits, IMAX movies and programs, call (203) 852-0700 or go online to www.maritimeaquarium.org.