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Lighthouses Shine In Debut At Norwalk's Maritime Aquarium

Mackenzie Leonard, 4, of Fairfield enjoy seeing the lighthouses made by local artists in her visit Saturday to went to the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk with her father and sister.
Mackenzie Leonard, 4, of Fairfield enjoy seeing the lighthouses made by local artists in her visit Saturday to went to the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk with her father and sister. Photo Credit: Alissa Smith

NORWALK, Conn. – The aroma of Twinkies fills one of the rooms that displays some of the 22 lighthouses entered in the 12th annual Festival of Lighthouses contest at Norwalk’s Maritime Aquarium.

Artists from Norwalk, Stamford, Ridgefield and Wilton are competing for a chance to be crowned the fan favorite and win $1,500. Nearly half of the entries this year are from people who have made a lighthouse in the past, including last year’s winner David Bishop of Stamford, said Judith Bacal, the aquarium’s director of exhibits.

“I think building the lighthouses become addictive,” Bacal said. “It’s fun and creative, but it’s also very competitive.”

The aquarium keeps the rules for the contest to a minimum to allow artists to employ a wide range of creativity. Among the only rules are that lighthouses be 3 to 6 feet tall and have a working light, and they may not include animal remains, such as shells.

“The ‘Lighthouse Contest’ is like a gift for us each year, because the designs are always so unexpected and the finished works show such thought and craftsmanship,” Bacal said. “It’s always great fun to see them as they come in.”

The 22 lighthouses are on exhibit throughout the aquarium, set up by the fish tanks and maritime displays for visitors to enjoy as they wind their way around.

This year's event, however, has a twist, with a contest within the contest. The museum is asking patrons to guess on Facebook how many calories are in Newtown resident Donna Kern Ball’s “Twinkie, Twinkie, Little Lighthouse,” which is made entirely out of Twinkies, Ho Hos and cupcakes. The voting on the calorie count ends on Thursday, Nov. 21.

Stamford residents Katie and Eric Kaplan went to the aquarium last year to see the lighthouse exhibits, and they were surprised when they arrived Saturday to find the show was back.

“We liked it last year,” Katie Kaplan said. “I like the opportunity to vote for my favorite.”

They came with their children Ethan and Vivian on a play date. They praised the Twinkie lighthouse as fantastic but said they all the entries were wonderful.

For Eban Leonard of Fairfield, seeing the lighthouses with his daughters was a bonus in the aquarium visit. “They’re pretty inventive,” he said. Leonard couldn’t pick a favorite, although he agreed the Twinkie one was interesting.

The exhibit will be open for all aquarium ticket holders through Jan. 20. Every visitor gets a vote for their favorite lighthouse.

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