NORWALK, CT – A dragon-topped model lighthouse made by a Danbury family is competing for the top prize in a contest at Norwalk's Maritime Aquarium.
The 15th annual “Festival of Lighthouses Contest” features large handcrafted beacons in a holiday display, which is open daily through Jan. 16.
“Knight Light” by Danbury resident Amye Huizinga and her children Kristy, Emma and Russell, are among 13 entries vying for the $1,500 prize.
The contest/exhibit works like a juried art show except that thousands of Maritime Aquarium visitors are the jury. All guests who visit through Jan. 16 get a ballot and the chance to vote for their favorite entry. The lighthouse that gets the most votes wins.
There are cash awards for the top prize and three runners-up. Other prizes are: $750 for second place, $300 for third and $150 for fourth. A separate vote on Facebook will earn $500 for first place. Winners will be announced at an evening reception on Jan. 19.
The lighthouse exhibit and ballot vote are free with aquarium admission.
This year’s 13 lighthouses were built by hobbyists with a vision, by families or friends looking for a fun challenge, and, in two cases, as an exercise by clients of special-needs centers. Some entries are modeled to look like real lighthouses; others are wildly whimsical.
“As always, there will be disagreements over which lighthouse is the best, but there’s no debate that the lighthouses add a fun, creative, festive feel to the Aquarium through the holidays that is greatly appreciated,” said Thomas Frankie, the Aquarium’s exhibits manager.
Rules of the “Festival of Lighthouses 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 food items or animal remains, such as shells or bones. Beyond that, it’s up to the creators’ imaginations.
This is the fifth year of entering the contest for the Huizingas, who finished sixth in 2011 and third in 2014. Their submission this year, “Knight Light,” positions medieval knights atop six vine-covered columns. The knights aim their arrows at a blue dragon high atop a central tower, which also is gray and roped with vines. The lighthouse light is inset in the tower, also revealing an empty bed. The heroine is in the clutches of the dragon, whose mouth also glows with light.
Materials used in other lighthouses in the 2016 contest include everything from wood, paper and PVC pipe to wine corks, beach balls, Popsicle sticks and Lego figures.
Contestants this year entered from Bridgeport, Darien, Bethel, Danbury and Shelton, Conn.; and Hartsdale, Yonkers and Pine Bush, N.Y.
The 2016 “Festival of Lighthouses Contest” is free with Maritime Aquarium admission, which is $22.95 for adults, $20.95 for youths (13-17) and seniors (65+), and $15.95 for children ages 3-12.
For more details about Maritime Aquarium exhibits, IMAX movies and special events this holiday season, call (203) 852-0700 or go online .