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Local Residents Create Working Models for Lighthouse Competition

Residents in Danbury, Newtown and Bethel entered their homemade creations in the Norwalk Maritime Aquarium's 2011 Festival of Lighthouses.

Amid the calm of the deep, blue swirling walkways of the beacons of light flash out to light the way.

The sound of foghorns fill only the imagination as visitors proceed from one exhibit to the next when they come upon this year's entries to the 2011 Lighthouse Competition.  

Submissions came in from throughout Fairfield County and beyond.  Some were fanciful and decorated with all manners of candy and toys while others were perfect scale recreations of existing lighthouses within the borders of Connecticut. All reflected some aspect of the designers life.

Newtown's Frank LaBanca, a former educator, created a replica of the Black Rock lighthouse that exists at the end of Seaside Park in Bridgeport. His work with the Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) program in Bethel and other towns fits right in with the building of the lighthouse. LaBanca said it was an exciting way to get his daughters involved in an educational project that was also fun.

LaBanca has a real fondness for the actual lighthouse that inspired their efforts. “It's a special place to us. We think of lighthouses as maritime castles, pieces of American history. Today people could put an LED on a stick but when you go back in history, people lived by them. They are an important part of our history.”

Together, LaBanca and his daughters spent about 40 to 50 hours working on their project using found materials and lifesavers for the stained glass windows. 

"It was such a nice experience for me to do with my children. We did all the math to make sure everything was to scale, and as an educator it was an important problem-solving project," LaBanca said.

The creative and delicious use of materials was also highlighted by the Lighthouse of Sheffield Island made by the Ball family of Newtown.

The perfect symmetry of the chocolate sugar cookie roof combined with the hand hewn sugar cookies on the walls make for a convincing replica of the real lighthouse.

Donna Ball, who takes her art seriously as a professional illustrator, explained, “You find your vocabulary of materials. The cookies and royal icing, and you are making a lighthouse that looks good, and looks like you want to eat it. It's fun to glop it all on there but for a more professional appearearance, you want to be more accurate.”

Most of the lighthouses were built as family affairs, but Bethel's Captain Charles Weeks, dispatcher for Brookfield Police Department, took up making lighthouses as a hobby and is hoping it will one day pay off. “I just started thinking, I am a chartered boat captain for fishing and diving, mostly in the Long Island Sound but also in Candlewood lake. I do a lot of sketches and I thought I would do one of them myself. "

"It took me about a month, and I used plastic, mostly wood, foam board, some string. This is my third lighthouse there. The kids enjoy it when it is done on such a big scale, but it's hard to make them this large. I might make smaller ones and try to sell them. It's something to do, I am starting to look forward to retirement.”

Another fanciful, yet more reality based, project was the Maritime Aquarium lighthouse, designed to honor the 10th anniversary of the aquarium. Created by  the Huizinga parents and some of their nine children, ages 2 to 25, this Danbury family spent the better part of two weeks working on it.

"It was an excellent use of free time created by the loss of power from October's snowy nor'easter," mom Amye Huizinga said.  “We made a bunch of clay sharks and turtles and my husband built the whole structure.  We did one last year with legos, and my husband really got into it."

The family has participated in lighthouse competitions in the past and Amye described her children's experiences.  “My older son made one way back, and my daughter won second prize many years ago.”

Besides the lighthouses made in this area, there are many others that are worthy of a second look. The aquarium boasts lighthouses made out of toilet paper rolls, another of welded copper, a Cat in the Hat themed lighthouse, and many more.

 “The competition and quality should be good. The top five winners from last year are all back,” Chris Loynd, the aquarium's marketing director, said.

The competition is being judged by the viewers who are given ballots when they enter the aquarium. First prize is $1,500, $750 for second place, $375 for third, $300 for fourth, $225 for fifth, and $150 for sixth. The winners will be announced at an evening reception on Jan. 19.

The Maritime Aquarium is located at 10 North Water St., Norwalk. Visit the website for movie times, prices and more information. www.maritimeaquarium.org or call 203-852-0700.

Book Reader December 30, 2011 at 02:42 PM
Christine, You may want to check on a few things in this story. The photo you have identified as the Staten Island Lighthouse is in fact the Seaside Park lighthouse that was done by Frank LaBanca and his daughter. Also, Donna Ball worked with someone else on Sheffield Island Lighthouse. It was not just a Ball family project. Sorry.

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