Pondemonium Online 2021 Award Winners

Published on October 30, 2021

Diego Asturias & Dan Peterson, Artists of the Year; Patrick Handley, Conservationist of the Year; Chris Thompson, Businessman of the Year; Jeff and Melanie Norman, Distributor of the Year (pictured with their son, Brian Norman, in the middle); Jaak Harju, Digital Influencer of the Year;

by Mitch Feltz, Aquascape, Inc.

Aquascape presented several annual awards honoring their Certified Aquascape Contractors and distributors after another successful Pondemonium Online event, which had 1,175 attendees. Hundreds of contractors are considered for coveted awards like the Aquascape Artist of the Year and Conservationist of the Year.

Artist of the Year

An Artist of the Year distinguishes themselves with a unique style and are at the forefront of the industry for decorative water feature installation and design. 

Dan Peterson and Diego Asturias of Fontana Ponds & Water Features in Mission, British Columbia, Canada, are the 2021 recipients of this award. After joining forces as business partners for a new venture into water features, Dan and Diego quickly moved their way up to Master CAC status in 2017. In the short four years since, their impact on the water feature industry in the Canadian market has been undeniable.

“One of the standards we look for in an Artist of the Year is diversity,” said Brian Helfrich, vice president of construction at Aquascape Inc.. “We want to see variety in their water feature installs to determine that they are always hitting high marks, no matter what the project calls for. 

“Everything Dan and Diego touched this year was consistently beautiful,” he continued. “When I view their work, I leave feeling inspired, which is what this award is all about.” 

Conservationist of the Year

Aquascape awards Conservationist of the Year to a contractor who continually exemplifies a passion for the environment through sustainable water features. 

Patrick Handley of Waterscapes Australia in Queensland, Australia, is the recipient for 2021. Patrick has executed many specialty projects with an emphasis on ecology and ecosystems for native fish. He currently has plans to create a large-scale habitat system for an endangered Australian turtle species. His dedication to re-wilding Australia is unrivaled. More than 8,000 plants and 16 species of Australian native fish inhabit his incredible Lake Gkula project that spans 1.4 acres.

Digital Influencer of the Year

The Digital Influencer of the Year award goes to a Certified Aquascape Contractor who excels with content creation on YouTube and other social media platforms. 

Jaak Harju of Atlantis Water Gardens in Morris Plains, New Jersey, takes home the award in 2021 for maintaining a consistent output that inspires others to add water features to their outdoor living space. Harju’s company YouTube channel reaches an audience of more than 47,000 subscribers with its informative water feature installation videos. To date, his videos have amassed more than 4,700,000 views.

Other Pondemonium 2021 award winners included Jeff and Melanie Norman of Great Lakes Pondscapes in Paw Paw, Michigan (Distributor of the Year). Their dedicated support of CACs in Michigan set up everyone for success. They worked with their contractors to keep what they needed on the shelf.

Businessman of the Year went to Chris Thompson of Just Add Water in Ankeny, Iowa. Chris turned his company around by investing time working on the business and understanding his numbers. He actively communicates his findings and tips for success with the rest of the CAC network.

Finally, Certified Aquascape Contractor of the Year went to Cliff Raitz of Terrascapes in Costa Mesa, California. Cliff is a longstanding CAC known for his mentorship of other contractors. He selflessly goes out of the way to help people who are new to the water-feature business.

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