Residents look for support in lighthouse contest

A group of three men who built a lighthouse with a popular children’s movie character attached to it are currently looking for community support to help take home a prize of $1,500.

Shelton residents Charlie Kestler and his neighbor/friend Roy Glover, along with Kestler’s son-in-law Connor Rieve of Bethel, have entered what they’re calling the “Minion Point Lighthouse” in the 15th annual Festival of Lighthouses contest.

Last year Kestler teamed up with Glover to create their more traditional looking lighthouse called “Pecks Ledge Light,” but this year they took a more “whimsical” approach.

This is Kestler’s sixth time competing in the competition, Glover’s second time and Rieve’s first time.

Kestler said he has made all six of his lighthouses in Glover’s garage and it wasn’t until last year that he asked Glover, who is quite the handyman, to join him in the building process.

The relationship of Glover, 95, and Kestler has evolved from that of neighbors to friends who are teammates. Kestler said the look on Glover’s face while working on the lighthouse and when he saw the final product was “priceless.”

A whimsical approach?

It was Rieve’s idea to make this year’s lighthouse a minion-themed one, and Kestler said the out-of-the-box thinking could potentially benefit them in the results of the contest.

“He likes minions, what else can I say,” joked Kestler. “The lighthouses can be humorous or a regular lighthouse, but I’ve been making regular lighthouses for the past five years and haven’t won yet. When people come to see the display, a lot of the time people, especially kids, will walk by the more traditional lighthouses. Maybe with a character they know attached to it they’ll be more likely to enjoy the display. Other people have made whimsical ones, so I thought, ‘Hey let’s try it."
That’s when Rieve made his suggestion for the theme and it got tricky.
“We weren’t exactly sure how to make a little minion tall enough to be a lighthouse, so we figured we’d put one minion on the other one’s shoulders and then incorporate Christmas lights and we called it a lighthouse.”

The building process/competition

Kestler said Glover was responsible for building the lower halves of both minions, and to the rest of the group’s surprise he loved the concept.

Rieve, who is a plumber, made the actual lighthouse pole out of PVC pipe. Kestler helped with the entire display.

Rules of the Festival of Lighthouses contest are kept to a minimum to allow for the creator’s maximum creativity.

Lighthouses must be three to six feet tall and have a working light, and may not include animal remains, such as shells, or food items. Beyond that, it’s up to the creators’ imaginations. Lighthouses in the 2016 contest were made out of everything from wood, paper and stone to wine corks, glass, candle wax, Legos, and Popsicle sticks.

This all-new display works like a juried art show except that thousands of Maritime Aquarium visitors are the jury. Everyone who comes to the South Norwalk family attraction from Nov. 19 through Jan. 16 receives a ballot and the chance to vote for their favorite.

The lighthouse that gets the most votes wins $1,500, $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.

Seeing — and voting for — the lighthouses is free with aquarium admission.

“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.

Entering the annual contest seems to be an addiction for some: 10 of this year’s 13 entrants are return competitors; many of them are “regulars.”

Contestants this year come from Connecticut (including Norwalk, Darien, Bethel, Bridgeport, Danbury, and Shelton) and New York (including Hartsdale, Yonkers, and Pine Bush, which is north of Middletown).

Sixth year of the tradition

Kestler said the annual event is a new tradition for himself, Glover and Rieve that he looks forward to continuing in the future.

“I used to love coming to the Maritime Center to look at all of the displays, and then I saw the lighthouses there one year and found out that anyone could submit one to the contest,” said Kestler. “I got excited because I have a passion for building models. One of my hobbies was building model trains and tugboats, and I thought that this kind of fit in.”

Kestler wouldn’t say that he thinks his lighthouse is the best, but he did say he thinks his lighthouse submission for this year was one of the nicest he’s seen so far on display.

“I think it’s nice, I think we can win something. But if we don’t win anything, I’m still going to enter again next year,” said Kestler.

The minion lighthouse, along with a dozen or so competing lighthouses, will be on display until Jan. 19 and you can vote for it at the aquarium or on Facebook at