Lauterborn Blog Search

Monday, August 22, 2011

Sand Sculptures Rise and Fall, All in a Morning’s Work

Sand Sculptures Rise and Fall, All in a Morning’s Work:
Annual P.A.L.-sponsored contest draws 49 teams Sunday morning
By Mike Lauterborn
(Posted to 8/22)
© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Fairfield, CT – As quickly as they rose from the sand, the elaborate sculptures were reclaimed by the rising tide Sunday morning. Their existence was fleeting, but then so are many things on Mother Nature’s grand, ever-dynamic stage.

It was 13 years ago that fellow board members Bob Seirup, Jr. and Pat Dyer hatched the idea to have the Police Athletic League (P.A.L.), the mission of which is to host events and programs for the under-18 set, conduct a Sand Sculpture Contest at Fairfield’s Penfield Beach. This year’s free contest, sponsored by the Bank of Fairfield, attracted 49 teams, some with as many as six members each. As such, an estimated 150 people in all participated. An equal number rooted them on and/or visited their installations, which lined the shorefront in front of the new Pavilion, starting at the tide’s lowest point of the day, around 10 a.m.

Typically, one professional sand castle builder is also featured – essentially hired to erect a remarkable construction usually sponsored by area businesses. Seirup said that this year, though, “Due to the pavilion renovation project, there was going to be difficulty getting the special sand trucked in that the artist needed.”

Contest registration was held on the new Pavilion’s deck, coordinated by Bob Seirup, Sr. and Priscilla Schulz. Among the early registrants were Todd Debek and his son Jack, 14, of Fairfield, who toted a five-gallon bucket crammed with tools they planned to use for sand shaping. The contest had become a Debek family tradition, starting seven years ago, with Todd and Jack competing against the women in their family.

“We’re always in the top three,” said Todd proudly, with regard to past performance. “This year Jack and I are going to do a face – something quick and easy. The girls are going to do a Snoopy, Daffy Duck or Bugs Bunny. In terms of technique, Jack and I last-minute spray down our sculpture with water, to keep it from drying out.” Debek added, “The greatest thing about this event is that everybody wins.”

Another event veteran was Carla Antone, from Norwalk, who had been coming to the contest for the past five years. She was employing family heirlooms – her grandparents’ trowel and shovel – and working from a sketch for the construction of a giant sunflower, with a center that would hold water. Antone was being assisted by Fairfielder Linda Wallimann, who was the artist behind the design concept, which included a special effect. In a hush-hush tone, Antone shared the secret: “We’re going to color the petals with food coloring and water.”

The Norwalker was really throwing herself into the work, furiously digging a moat-like perimeter around a large mound of sand that would become the sunflower. She said sandcastle building usually has a physical toll – “I usually can’t walk the next day from all the bending over.”

Keeping the site safe for sandcastlers, and an eye on the weather, were lifeguards Amanda Reed and Rebecca Stern, wearing trademark Penfield Beach red one-piece swimsuits and camped amid the activities. Reed predicted a big crowd, saying, “People like to come down and see the sandcastles.” Stern countered, “Possible rain could be an unknown factor.”

Moving east up the beach from them, Fairfielder P.J. Clyne and his seven-year-old daughter Alexandra were working on “Three Girls”, which is the name of Clyne’s 21-foot cutty cabin boat, which he keeps in nearby South Benson Marina. “We’re going to try and rebuild her here and be as authentic as possible.”

Meanwhile, fellow Fairfielder Kellie Panus, wearing a wide-brimmed straw hat, was up-sand collecting seagull feathers. “These will be part of the tail of a prehistoric tortoise sculpture,” she explained, having a chuckle about the idea.

In contrast, Fairfielder Keith Magner was quite serious about his project, despite its whimsical name – Buck the Magic Dragon – and hoped the building activity would be an activity that his young son Zachary would embrace.

“I grew up going to Chatham, MA, on the Cape, during the summer from my earliest memory,” Magner said. “We spent all day at the beach making sandcastles, fishing, catching crabs. Sand castle building is a tradition that I wanted to pass on to my son. Zach’s grandfather, James, is also a fine artist, so it’s in his genes.”

The contest was scheduled to run from 10:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., which couldn’t have been more ideal timing, at least this particular morning, given the report of an impending storm – lifeguard Rebecca’s prediction ringing true. In fact, at 12:45, an announcement that the “water is closed due to an approaching thunder condition” was heard over the pavilion’s public address system. By that time, the tide was quickly on the way back up, swirling in and around sand structures, chomping at their perimeters.

The judges, whose identity was concealed and reviewing process unannounced, had bestowed awards upon installations deemed best and now event organizers stepped around quickly to grab, literally, the signs of recognition before they were swallowed by the sea as well. One of the sign collectors was Bob Seirup, Jr., who had kicked off the contest. As he plucked up signs, tucked them under his arm and continued wading along, he reflected, “This is just a great day of family fun.”


FIRST PLACE – “Shark Attack” by Marty Daniels, Patrick Daniels and Joanne Fabry
SECOND PLACE – “Cupcake” by Katy Saladin, Dani Corrigan, Emily Erikson and Alyssa Colleran
THIRD PLACE – “Big Face” by Jack Debek and Todd Debek

FIRST PLACE – “Gumball Machine” by the Swanson family: Vicki, Dave, Sam, Charlie and Maggie
SECOND PLACE – “Twin Towers” by the Frillici family
THIRD PLACE – “Rubber Duck” by Isabella Roca

FIRST PLACE – “Motor Boat with Tube” by Molly Doherty, Jack Doherty, Maddy Markham, Cole Markham and Chase Markham
SECOND PLACE – “Kayak with Dolphins” by Ariana Roca, Natasha Roca and Mikaela Roca
THIRD PLACE – “Turtle With Shell” by Katherine Neely, Haley Neely and Mason Neely

FIRST PLACE – “Penfield Moat” by Kassi Barton, Phill Ferdinand and Vehera Alexandrora
SECOND PLACE – “DC Museum Row” by Rebecca Newman, Jacob Newman, Becca Fink, Max Fink and Daniele Miller
THIRD PLACE – “Vampire Island” by Matt Deutch and Lance Dengelegi

- Winner information provided by Bob Seirup, Jr., Secretary, Police Athletic League
- Winners determined by a panel of three independent, non-associated judges 

Kings (and Queens and Pirates) For a Day through Summer Camp

Kings (and Queens and Pirates) For a Day through Summer Camp:
Westport Historical Society hosts themed 5-day program
By Mike Lauterborn
(for Westport News)

Westport, CT – To step into the subterranean room and see the gathering there, one would think he had stumbled upon some clandestine costume ball. There were young gentlemen with eye patches, ladies with jeweled crowns and other kingly-looking countenances. Yet all said adorned individuals were only between the ages of five and ten.

The dress-up and finery was all part of “Pirates, Kings & Queens”, a five-day summer camp program running August 15 to 19 at the Westport Historical Society, 25 Avery Place. Held from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. each weekday, the program is coordinated by Elizabeth DeVoll, the education director for the Society.

“I inherited the program,” said DeVoll, overseeing activities in the Newman Room, the sub-level of the Society’s Westport headquarters. “This is designed to mix art, history, games and summer fun.”

DeVoll was glad to have a refreshed space in which to work, mentioning that the Newman Room was renovated earlier in the summer, to incorporate benches and Westport Playhouse memorabilia. “It’s dressed up a bit more, and speaks to the heritage of the area. Actor Paul Newman originally funded it, hence the name.”

Assisting DeVoll were three teens – Georgia Nicklin, 13, Lilly Valente, 13, and Lindsey Giannitti, 14, all Westporters – representing National Charity League. This was the second year running the girls had performed service work in the community, which is the mission of NCL. “Last year, we did 15 hours each. This year, 10. It’s a way to help in the town,” said Nicklin.

Added Valente, “We had a lot of options of programming to support. This looked fun – artsy and craftsy – and you get to work with kids. If you’re going to work in the summer, this is not a bad way to spend your time.”

“And I couldn’t do it without these girls,” said DeVoll, chiming in.

The activities were certainly keeping youngsters busy. “Today, we played with colored sand and salt shakers, and made queens’ crowns and pirate patches,” squealed seven-year-old Abbie Millman, from Westport. “We also did yoga exercises with Sue (WHS’ Executive Director Sue Gold).”

Regarding the exercise, DeVoll said, “The yoga helps mellow them out, especially on a rainy day like today. It helps them focus.”

The children’s morning of crafts was followed by a midday “Walk the Plank” activity session wherein the teen volunteers created individual stations: ring toss wherein the rings are like life preservers you toss to a person, hopping like a peg-leg pirate, drawing oneself as a pirate.

As to the balance of the week, on the agenda was a scavenger hunt at Town Hall, a tour Thursday of the Farmers’ Market behind the library, a tie-in with the Christo exhibit at Westport Arts Center and drama instructor Jen Devine coming in to conduct themed drama skits.

“These are boredom busters,” said DeVoll with regard to the activities. “A great way for kids to fill downtime before school starts again.”

East Coast United Scores Wins Across the Board at NAGA Championship

East Coast United Scores Wins Across the Board at NAGA Championship:
All ECU participants earned a medal at Aug. 6 & 7 meet
By Mike Lauterborn
(Posted to
© 2001. All Rights Reserved.

Fairfield, CT – Demonstrating the high caliber of instruction they had received, each member of the circle of 11 came away with a competition medal. It was a shining moment for the group and their teacher Joe Oppedisano, who also achieve an Absolute Belt honor.

Oppedisano is the owner of Sportsplex@Fairfield-based East Coast United Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Boxing studio and the 11 are his pupils. The group breaks out as seven kids ages 6 to 15 and four adults, ranging in martial arts skill level from white to brown belt. On August 6 and 7, they competed at the North American Grappling Association’s NAGA Fighter match, titled “Battle of the Beach 12” and held in Wildwood, NJ. All scored honors among the over 1,000 competitors, ages 6 to 50. NAGA is one of the largest grappling associations in the world.

Jojo Guaran, the owner of an associated martial arts school, joined Oppedisano in the effort, which was focused on Braziiian Submission Grappling. In this discipline, competitors meet one-on-one, battling until someone taps out. Points are earned by achieving dominating positions and taking an opponent down.

“Everyone earned a medal,” beamed Oppedisano, “which in this case is a samurai sword. It’s the first time this has ever happened in a school environment with which I’ve been associated. I attribute it to the coaching we do here. I truly believe I can make champions out of raw talent. I have kids here who weren’t able to do a simple jumping jack, who have evolved into expert competitors. It’s truly remarkable.”

Among the 11 was Oppedisano’s niece, Gabriella, 15, who is also an assistant coach at ECU. She took first in the white belt competition, against an adult competitor. “This was her first time competing,” said Oppedisano. “Again, very outstanding.”

Oppedisano’s own win, in the brown belt division, came after defeating three competitors.

The martial arts master said these types of accomplishments build self-esteem not only in the martial arts world, but in the real world. “Win or lose, my students are champions just for having stepped on the competition mat,” he said.