Summer is already beyond the halfway mark, so it’s time to start pondering the highlights of this year’s pond season.
POND Trade magazine will soon begin accepting entries for the 2018 Water Artisans of the Year contest, the pond and water garden industry’s premier independent competition. For the past two years, the contest has recognized winning projects and runners-up in five distinct categories.
On Aug. 7, 2018, POND Trade Publisher Lora Lee Gelles announced the five categories for the upcoming 2018 contest and introduced the judging panel, which will evaluate and rank all entries with no knowledge of applicants’ names or the brands of the products used to complete the projects.
“Most things remain consistent year to year,” Gelles said. “But we do like to tweak a few details to keep it fresh. I think we’re going to see a lot of interest from all over the industry this year.”
The Best Waterfall and Best Pondless categories return for the third year in a row, and the Best under $15,000 and Most Naturalistic categories return from last year. A new fifth category, Best Waterscape/Hardscape, will cater to larger-scale projects with a major aquatic component (e.g., outdoor living spaces and backyard renovations).
Keeping with tradition, the POND Trade Editorial Board invited three winners from its 2017 contest to serve on the upcoming third session of the Supreme Stream Court: Brian Fitzsimmons (Best Large Scale), Jason Heller (Best Waterfall) and Bobby Kenyon (Best under $15,000). Well-known waterscape designers Jason Steele of Wichita, Kansas, and Mark “MJ” Wilson from across the big pond will contribute their expertise to the panel. And finally, Dave Ouwinga of EasyPro Pond Products and Greg Wittstock of Aquascape will also bring their industry perspectives to the group.
Brian Fitzsimmons, owner of Fitz’s Fish Ponds in Central New Jersey, wowed last year’s judging panel with his Best Large Scale-winning renovation — a 30,000-gallon fishpond featuring more than 50 tons of moss rock boulders and an array of crashing waterfalls. He brings more than a decade of pond-building experience to this year’s panel.
Jason Heller, owner of Neptune’s Water Gardens in eastern Nebraska, also took home an award last year, nabbing the Best Waterfall award for his multi-level masterpiece that blends seamlessly with the natural surroundings. He has a degree in horticulture and more than 20 years of experience in the industry.
Bobby Kenyon’s patio makeover beat out the competition in the Best under $15,000 category in last year’s contest. As the creative guru for C.E. Pontz Sons in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, he has more than a decade of experience in the landscape and water-garden industries, relying on a creative, artistic approach to pond building.
Jason Steele, or “The Waterboss,” owns Steele’s Landscapes in Wichita, Kansas and brings more than 30 years of experience to the panel, having sculpted outdoor living art for a variety of customers throughout the Midwest and as far west as California.
Mark “MJ” Wilson of Northamptonshire, Great Britain brings an international eye to the contest. He is the managing director of Any Pond Ltd., which has more than 25 years of experience in the global pond industry. Wilson is internationally recognized as an award-winning pond builder and has been regularly featured on the BBC network.
Dave Ouwinga, owner and president of EasyPro Pond, grew up in his family’s business, Stoney Creek Fisheries and Equipment. After years of experience installing projects of all sizes, Ouwinga established the EasyPro brand of water feature products in 2000. It has since become one of the leading manufacturers and distributors in the industry.
Greg Wittstock, the “Pond Guy” and founder and CEO of Aquascape in St. Charles, Illinois, has led the company for more than 25 years, seeing tremendous growth, pioneering industry innovations and making Aquascape a household name among industry professionals and consumers alike.
A $25 donation to the St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital is required with each submission. Eligible projects must be completed between Nov. 1, 2017 and Nov 1, 2018. Projects with completion dates outside this timeframe will not be considered for this year’s contest. Winners will be featured in the March/April 2019 issue of POND Trade magazine.
Stay tuned for more information about how to enter. Do you have what it takes to be a Water Artisan of the Year?