Paladins of the Pond World

Published on February 24, 2017

This year’s overall best design winner goes to Dean Pipito and Aquatica.

The results of POND Trade magazine’s first annual Water Artisans of the Year contest are in, and five cardinal winners have been crowned in five categories — best overall design, best pondless, best waterfall, most naturalistic design and best renovation.

[box style=”rounded”]>> See More | View all the winners via our Gallery Spotlight[/box]

Lora Lee Gelles, the publisher of POND Trade magazine, announced the winners at the Water Garden Expo in Shawnee, Oklahoma, on Feb. 23, 2017.

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 Dean Pipito of Aquatica took home the award for best overall design with his landscape centerpiece at The Legend of Merrill Hills golf club in Waukesha, Wisconsin. His project enhanced the facility’s private golf experience with a series of majestic waterfalls, updated golf cart bridges and a 450-foot rushing river meandering through the course.


Kudos for the best pondless feature was bestowed to Tim Wood of Aquatic Edge Pond & Landscape Solutions for his impressive craftsmanship in manipulating more than 40 tons of boulders into a living work of art in a treacherously steep backyard setting. After integrating fallen logs and thick moss harvested from the nearby woods, his naturalistic oasis went above and beyond his customer’s expectations.

Demi, Edwin and Ely Fortuna of August Moon Designs won the award for best renovation. Their transformation of a crowded koi pond into a dazzling, spacious koi community provides “laps” of luxury for the fish and owners alike. The father-and-sons team wrestled with unusually limited access to craft this direly needed pond makeover.

Lora Lee Gelles, Publisher of POND Trade, with Tim Wood after receiving the most naturalistic pond build award.

The award for best waterfall went to John Adams of Modern Design Aquascaping, where the pondless feature he built for an animal rescue farm served as a welcome new dimension to the already tranquil ambiance. This unique project is memorable for many reasons, not the least of which the fact that he considers it some of the best work of his career.

Top props for most naturalistic design went to Brian Buchholtz of PondWorks, who managed to channel the essence of the Adirondack Mountains in a yard just outside of Philadelphia — while somehow making it seem as if nature had created it that way. The waterfalls built by his team truly appear as though they had eroded naturally from the hillside.

>> Related Content | Water Artisans of the Year Contest 

“We couldn’t have asked for a better response to the first year of our contest,” said Lora Lee Gelles, publisher of POND Trade magazine. “We look forward to making a tradition of recognizing the industry’s ‘stream of the crop’ for many years to come.”

Wood, Adams and Buchholtz also received honorable mentions as the runners-up in the most naturalistic, best renovation and best overall design categories, respectively. Runner-up for best waterfall was awarded to Bobby Kenyon of C.E. Pontz Sons, and Josiah Crousore of Specialty Water Gardens won second place in the best pondless category. For full details and breathtaking photos of all winners and runners-up, check out the March/April 2017 issue of POND Trade magazine.

Water Artisan Judges
Parts of the “Supreme Stream Court — Water Artisan judges — were in attendance at the 2017 IWGE symposium, along with Demi Fortuna.  (L-R) Demi Fortuna, Benjamin Timmermans, Mike Miller, Kelly Billing, Jason Lenox, and Lora Lee Gelles

In its inaugural year, the independent contest was designed to honor specific water feature construction projects. The magazine officially began accepting entries from professional contractors in late August 2016. Eligible projects were completed between Nov. 1, 2015, and Oct. 31, 2016.

The editorial staff assembled a judging panel to blindly evaluate more than 50 submissions, with applicants’ names and product brands hidden on the ballots. The panel consisted of two of the magazine’s Editorial Committee members, Benjamin Timmermans of Liquid Landscapes and Rick Smith at EasyPro Pond Products, and also brought in Ed Beaulieu of Aquascape, Kelly Billing of Maryland Aquatic Nurseries, Mike Miller of the Pond Pro Shop in Shawnee, Oklahoma, “Pool Master” Dave Duensing and Jason Lenox of Ponds Inc. of Illinois to provide a wide range of industry experience and expertise. Editorial staff were responsible for assembling the ballots but did not take part in the judging process.

Demi Fortuna accepting the “Best Renovation” award from Lora Lee Gelles.

The entry fee for each submission was $25, and all proceeds — which totaled more than $1,300 — were donated directly to the Wounded Warrior Project (

Do you have what it takes to be a Water Artisan of the Year? Next year’s contest will feature projects completed between Nov. 1, 2016, and Oct. 31, 2017. POND Trade will start accepting submissions in August 2017. 

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