Sheltonite creates miniature lighthouse for Maritime Aquarium contest

“Holiday Cove” by Charlie Kestler of Shelton is one of the homemade lighthouses entered in the Festival of Lighthouses Contest at the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk.
“Holiday Cove” by Charlie Kestler of Shelton is one of the homemade lighthouses entered in the Festival of Lighthouses Contest at the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk.

A Shelton resident’s colorful model lighthouse is helping to light the way for visitors to the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk as part of the venue’s 12th annual Festival of Lighthouses Contest.

Charlie Kestler’s “Holiday Cove” is among the 22 creative lighthouses in the holiday display, which will be open daily through Jan. 20.

Kestler’s entry is a large circular lighthouse covered with fabric containing images of real lighthouses, as well as decorative images of sea stars and shells. Christmas lights, strung up the sides, lead to a rotating light within a double-railing crown.

Down next to the base sits a lighthouse keeper’s house, decorated with wreaths for the holidays — and it’s all inside a white picket fence lined with pine roping and bows.

Visitors can vote for their favorite

The Festival of Lighthouses exhibit is free with Maritime Aquarium admission. Visitors can follow these homemade beacons through the galleries and then cast a vote for their favorite. The lighthouse with the most votes wins $1,500 for its creator.

The lighthouses were built by local artists looking for a challenge, by friends and families who wanted to work together on a fun project, and by students fulfilling an assignment.

Rules 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). Beyond that, it’s up to the creators’ imaginations.

“The best gifts are those gifts that are unexpected yet show great thought,” said Judith Bacal, the aquarium’s director of exhibits. “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.”

Many different designs

Kestler, the Shelton resident, has competed several previous times in the holiday contest at the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk.

Other designs in the contest this year include: a lighthouse made from Twinkies, Ho Hos and other Hostess snack cakes; a gingerbread lighthouse; one made of tin; one made of green plastic soda bottles; a lighthouse that celebrates the children’s board game Candy Land; and a World Series lighthouse set in a baseball stadium.

Four entries were built by students at the Ursuline School in New Rochelle, N.Y., for their Senior Introduction to Engineering class.

Besides the $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.

About the Maritime Aquarium

The 2013 Festival of Lighthouses Contest is free with Maritime Aquarium general admission, which is $19.95 for adults, $17.95 for youths (13 to 17) and seniors (65 and older), and $12.95 for children ages 3 to 12.

The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk focuses on increasing appreciation for Long Island Sound and protecting it for future generations. The waterfront tourist attraction offers living exhibits, marine science, and environmental education.

For details about Maritime Aquarium exhibits, IMAX movies and programs, call 203-852-0700 or go to