However, as you turn the next few pages, we suspect you’ll agree with us in disagreeing with this common rule — maybe just this once. There’s no question that our second annual Water Artisans of the Year contest packs just as much pizzazz, wonderment and showmanship as last year’s inaugural contest. Overall, this year’s competition, which honors the top projects of the 2017 pond season, blew our expectations out of the water, so to speak.
We pored over more than 50 project submissions in five distinct categories and presented them to the all-new independent judging panel, composed of three of last year’s winners and four other heavy-hitters around the industry. (Meet the judges on pg. 21!) We presented them with photos and specifications for each project; no brand names, locations or contractors’ identities were revealed.
In the end, although there were a couple of close calls, one clear winner emerged in each of this year’s categories, with four new faces and one repeat winner. The best waterfall and best pondless categories returned from last year, and we mixed it up with three new categories — best large scale, best under $15,000 and most artistic.
Like last year, a donation to the Wounded Warrior Project was required with each submission. Thanks to you, we were proud to make a $1,375 donation to this reputable charity for disabled veterans.
Enough formalities! It’s time to reveal the most impressive pond and water-gardening projects from the 2017 season — and the artisans who crafted them.
When Jason Lenox of Pond Inc. of Illinois first conceived of the Water Artisans of the Year contest on the POND Trade Facebook page back in 2016, we took to the idea instantly, jumping at the chance to provide an independent, level playing field for contractors in the pond and water-gardening industry.
Our inaugural panel was a “Dream Team” of industry leaders — a lineup that seemed impossible to beat. However, we decided to mix things up in the sophomore year of the contest, allowing last year’s judges to enter this year’s contest if they wished, and putting some of last year’s winners in the hot seat to serve as judges.
Like last year, POND Trade staff compiled all the submissions and removed product information, contractors’ names and other identifying factors. A brief description and up to four photos of each project were presented to our seven judges, who ranked their top three choices in each category. We tallied the results and featured each category’s winner and runner-up in this issue. Employees of POND Trade magazine with knowledge of contestants’ identities did not cast votes in the process.
We’d like to thank the industry elite who handpicked the Water Artisans of the Year of the 2017 pond season. Here’s a little more about them.
John Adams took home last year’s award for best waterfall after his pondless feature at an animal rescue farm wowed his customer and our judges. The owner of Modern Design Aquascaping, John has been in the industry for more than 20 years, building ponds and water features in Tennessee and 10 other states.
Brian Buchholtz’s koi pond, stream and waterfalls won most naturalistic in last year’s contest. He is the founder and owner of PondWorks, a water-feature construction company based in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, and brings more than 25 years of experience in design and consulting to this year’s panel.
Dean Pipito’s majestic golf course waterscape, which included crashing waterfalls and a 450-foot river, won best overall in last year’s contest. His company, Aquatica, is one of the largest waterscape firms in the United States. Pipito brings more than 25 years of experience and a keen eye for artistic design to the panel.
James Allison joins the court from across the pond as an aquatic biologist who has been involved in the water-gardening trade for more than 30 years. He currently heads Water Garden Solutions in the United Kingdom.
Jamie Beyer is one of the Midwest’s leading experts on fish and wildlife biology. His consulting and installation business, Midwest Waterscapes, designs, builds and installs water gardens, fountains and ponds. He also teaches classes on the subject and takes pride in helping do-it-yourselfers do it the right way.
Mike Gannon is a lifelong pond enthusiast and fish keeper. He started Full Service Aquatics in 1995 after working as a fish dealer and a stint at the New York Aquarium. Gannon also hosts The Pond Hunter Radio Broadcast, which can be found on iTunes.
Eric Triplett is the owner and operator of The Pond Digger Waterscape Design & Construction Company and the creator of Helix Life Support Pond Filtration Systems. He is a regular guest speaker at industry seminars and events and was inducted into the Green Industry Hall of Fame in 2015.