Fun and Learning Abound During the Maryland Lighthouse Challenge

By Bob Trapani, Jr.

Chesapeake Chapter Volunteers
Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.

Chesapeake Chapter Volunteers
(Standing L to R) Hobie Statzer, Jerry
Siatkowski, Anne Puppa and Donna Ward
Smith (sitting) Marie Statzer and Al Pearson

I recently traveled from Maine to attend the 4th annual Maryland Lighthouse Challenge on September 16 and 17, 2006, fully expecting to enjoy the opportunity to see many of my lighthouse friends again, but the event ended up being so much more than I could have ever imagined.

The Maryland Lighthouse Challenge, which is sponsored by the Chesapeake Chapter of the United States Lighthouse Society, invites the public to visit nine lighthouses and one lightship in two days. According to Chapter volunteer Karen Rosage, “This collaborative and award-winning effort between the Chapter and the local lighthouse groups is the only time of the year when the lighthouses are open simultaneously for public access, and climbing wherever possible. To lighthouse enthusiasts, this is a highly anticipated event.”

To be invited as a special guest for this year’s Challenge signing my new book – Maryland and Virginia Lighthouses: History, Mystery, Legend & Lore, along with renowned lighthouse artist Donna Elias and Harbour Lights Master Sculptor Harry Hine, was a true and humbling honor. The Chesapeake Chapter graciously arranged for my wife Ann-Marie and I to be at Concord Point Lighthouse in Havre de Grace where we would have the opportunity to meet and greet people from all over the mid-Atlantic, and others from as far away as California.

Bob & Ann-Marie Trapani
Photo by Hobie Statzer

Bob and Ann-Marie Trapani

Though Ann-Marie and I had a blast talking with all these people about lighthouses in general and discussing my new lighthouse book, the thing I took most satisfaction in was observing the incredible lighthouse education process that was occurring – all the while as people were having the time of their lives.

Seeing this event firsthand gave me a much better appreciation for pre-Challenge comments made by Chesapeake Chapter member Karen Rosage, who noted “The glory of an event of this kind is that it allows the sentinels’ modern day caretakers to increase awareness and visitation to the lights, while allowing enthusiasts from near and far to get up-close and personal with them.” Rosage went on to say, “By show casing the Maryland lights in this venue, it is hoped that folks will begin to understand the important role these structures played in the state’s maritime history, and the monumental efforts being taken to preserve and restore them.”

Al Pearson, Hobie Statzer & Anne Puppa
Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.

(L to R) Al Pearson, Hobie Statzer
and Anne Puppa work together on
many preservation projects in
the Chesapeake Bay

If Maryland Lighthouse Challenge participants were unaware of the Chapter’s passionate efforts to save and preserve the Chesapeake Bay’s lighthouse heritage prior to the event, they certainly walked away with a much better understanding of the Bay’s “keepers of the lights” when it was all said and done. Being stationed at Concord Point Lighthouse provided me with a front row seat to some of the Chapter’s finest preservation ambassadors, as Chapter vice-president for preservation Anne Puppa was joined by fellow comrades Hobie Statzer and Al Pearson in talking with visitors about their favorite lighthouse restoration projects. To see a volunteer like Hobie get excited talking with folks about his recent experiences working at Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse was a true joy and inspiration.

Lighthouse preservation wasn’t the only topic the Chapter volunteers enjoyed discussing with people coming through the former keeper’s house to pick up their Challenge memorabilia. While visitors retraced the steps of Concord Point lightkeepers inside the dwelling, the unbridled exuberance of other Chapter volunteers like Jerry Siatkowski, Donna Ward Smith and Marie Statzer as they touched on the group’s many fun and educational activities was plainly evident. These folks were not just “staffing” a table – they were “selling” lighthouse preservation and education to all that walked by their station.

Jeff Gales, Henry Gonzales & Bob Trapani
Photo by Ann-Marie Trapani

(L to R) Jeff Gales and Henry Gonzales
of the U.S. Lighthouse Society
and Bob Trapani of the
American Lighthouse Foundation

As a highly valued chapter of United States Lighthouse Society (USLHS), which is headquartered in San Francisco, California, the Chesapeake Chapter hardly had to “go it alone” during the Challenge. I was thoroughly impressed by the commitment of the parent organization to support their chapter despite the 3,000-plus mile distance that separates them.

U.S. Lighthouse Society executive director Jeff Gales flew in from the West coast and was joined by USLHS vice-president Henry Gonzalez, who happens to also serve as the president for the Chesapeake Chapter and manager for the Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse project, in driving around to many of the lights participating in the Maryland Lighthouse Challenge. The duo took the time to greet the Chapter’s many volunteers at the sites and talked with a number of participants, an action that speaks volumes about the types of individuals that comprise this first-class organization.

Jerry Siatkowski, Bob Trapani & Anne Puppa
Photo by Ann-Marie Trapani

(L to R) Jerry Siatkowski,
Bob Trapani and Anne Puppa

Speaking of volunteerism, it was simply amazing to learn that each of the nine lighthouse and one lightship sites had an average of 5 or 6 volunteers staffing the Chesapeake Chapter tables at their respective locations. Having enough volunteers to work from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. each day during the two-day event doesn’t happen without teamwork and commitment.

First it takes leaders to pull off an extremely tough logistical challenge when it comes to coordinating the sites and the number of volunteers necessary to manage an event of this size, and then it takes an unwavering commitment from the volunteers to not only show up, but also to add value to the experience of each participant. If the passion and talents of Chesapeake Chapter volunteers at Concord Point were representative of the Chapter as a whole – which undoubtedly they are, the Maryland Lighthouse Challenge participants were the ones who walked away winners from this incredible event.

Bob Trapani autographs books
Photo by Ann-Marie Trapani

Bob Trapani signs his lighthouse
books at Concord Point Light

As a proud Chesapeake Chapter member myself, all I can say is “wow!” I may have spent a good amount of time signing books during the Maryland Lighthouse Challenge, but I spent just as much time admiring the dedication and passion of the Chesapeake Chapter in action as they shined a brilliant light on not only the Chesapeake Bay’s lighthouse heritage, but also on their efforts as modern day keepers to save and preserve these historic beacons for future generations. To me that’s as good as it gets when you mix lighthouses, fun and education into one big event that took the state of Maryland by storm. If you missed this year’s Maryland Lighthouse Challenge, an experience that promises to last a lifetime, then you will want to mark your calendar for next year and be sure you join in on this exciting and fun event for the entire family – it’s a must-do!

To learn more about the Chesapeake Chapter of the United States Lighthouse Society, visit www.cheslights.org To learn more about the U.S. Lighthouse Society, visit www.uslhs.org

 

Lantern room of Concord Point Light
Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.

The American flag flies
proudly at Concord Point Light

 
Keeper's house at Concord Point
Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.

The former keeper's house at
Concord Point has been restored

Concord Point Lighthouse
Photo by Ann-Marie Trapani
A stormy view of Concord Point Lighthouse
Photo by Ann-Marie Trapani
Concord Point Lighthouse
Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.

The many moods of Concord Point Light during the Maryland Lighthouse Challenge

Concord Point Lighthouse
Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.
 
Fresnel lens in Concord Point Light
Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.

Challenge participants were given the opportunity
to "walk in the steps of the keeper."

Created: September 2006