Local man helps light up the holidays

A stained-glass model lighthouse made by a Greenwich man is helping to light the way for visitors in The Maritime Aquarium of Norwalk as part of the aquarium’s 11th annual Festival of Lighthouses.

John Sudell’s “For the Birds” is among the 22 creative lighthouses in the holiday display, which is open daily and free with aquarium admission now through Jan. 21.

Aquarium 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.

The lighthouses were built by local artists and amateurs 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,” Chris Loynd, the aquarium’s marketing director, 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.”

Rules are kept to a minimum to allow for maximum creativity.

Lighthouses must be three to six 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.

Mr. Sudell’s entry is a four-sided tapering lighthouse with stained-glass images of birds. The colorful flock includes a parrot, hummingbirds, a flamingo, ducks and an oystercatcher.

Other entries this year include a lighthouse covered in crocheted yarn, a lighthouse with interactive computer animation and a lighthouse that amusingly represents the 12 days of Christmas. There are also lighthouses made of intricately cut pieces of stone, punched tin and tiny cups of diner coffee creamer.

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 a reception on Jan. 25.

The 2012 Festival of Lighthouses is free with Maritime Aquarium general admission, which is $13.95 for adults, $12.95 for seniors and $10 for children two to 12-years old. For more details about Maritime Aquarium exhibits and programs, call 203-852-0700 or visit Maritimeaquarium.org.

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