Lighthouse Builder Defending Her Title

Published: November 23, 2012 at 12:00 am


Lighthouse Builder Defending Her Title

A Newtown woman whose sugar cookie entry won first place in The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk’s 2011 “Festival of Lighthouses” is hoping to defend her crown in this year’s display with an entry made largely from crocheted yarn.

Illustrator Donna Kern Ball teamed up with her mother to create “Wooly West Quoddy,” this year’s entry into The Maritime Aquarium’s 11th Annual Festival of Lighthouses Competition.

Marie Kern of Indianapolis, Ind., is an annual visitor to Newtown. So when the call for entries came during her visit in August, as Ms Ball recently recalled, “I turned to her and said, ‘Hey Mom, wanna crochet a lighthouse?’” By the end of the day the women had a sketch, measurements, and a bag of yarn.

By the time Mrs Kern returned to Indianapolis, she had the bulk of the main section completed. After that, the two women communicated via Skype to work out instructions for the various smaller pieces.

“It was fun to collaborate with Mom over Skype, and she just did a fantastic job crocheting odd and very-odd shaped pieces to my design specs,” said Ms Ball.

The crochet work is skinned over a foam core armature. A little Playmobil family enjoys a picnic on the lighthouse grounds, and a Playmobil Uncle Sam waves from the platform above the crocheted American flag.

 The lighthouse they have recreated is a popular one in Lubec, Maine. With its bold red and white stripes, it is located on the easternmost point of the United States, earning the moniker “The Beginning of America.”

As many as 22 lighthouses will be displayed again this year. The lighthouses were built by local artists looking for a challenge, by families that wanted to work together on a fun project, and by students fulfilling an assignment.

“They’re beautiful. They’re funny. They’re clever. They’re intricate. They’re exquisite,” the Aquarium’s marketing director, Chris Loynd, said of this year’s lighthouses. “Every year, we’re blown away by the time and effort that people put into designing and building these lighthouses, which add tremendous value to our visitors’ experience through the holidays.”

Other entries in this year’s competitive display include a lighthouse with interactive computer animation and a lighthouse that amusingly represents the 12 days of Christmas. (For the partridge in a pear tree, look for a photo of the bus used on TV’s “The Partridge Family.”) There are lighthouses made of intricately cut pieces of stone, of stained glass, of punched tin, and of tiny cups of diner coffee creamer.

“Several entrants this year have told us that they’ve enjoyed viewing the lighthouse exhibits in the past and wanted to take a crack at making one themselves,” said Mr Loynd. “But we also have nine entrants — more than one-third of the field — who are returning veterans; some of them for several years in a row. It’s become very competitive.”

Four entries were built by Stamford High School students in the pottery class of teacher Carolyn Daher.

The Maritime Aquarium’s contest rules require entries to be between 3 and 6 feet high, a less than 30-inch base, and have a working light. Beyond that, the artists’ imaginations are the limit.

Last year, Donna Ball and her partner Laura McNamara placed first in the competition with their creation “Sugar Cookie Sheffield Island.” It was the first time either woman entered the contest.

The winner is chosen by visitors to the Aquarium who vote for their favorites. This year’s entries were put on display November 17, and will remain on view — and available for voting — until January 21. Over $3,000 in prizes are awarded, with the winner receiving $1,500.

The “2012 Festival of Lighthouses” is free with Maritime Aquarium general admission, which is $13.95 for adults, $12.95 for seniors (age 65 and up), and $10.50 for children 2-12.

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

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