Wooden toy contest gives kids hope


By Ryan Berry


ANSONIA — Scott Phillips, of PBS television’s The American Woodshop, returned to Ansonia Lumber on Saturday to judge the wooden toy contest. This is the 29th year for the contest and all of the toys created by local craftsmen are donated to Gateway Youth’s Adopt-A-Child program during this holiday season.

Mitch McCabe, of Ansonia Lumber, believes this year’s entries were the most in the history of the contest. There were 26 contestants and 36 toys. Phillips was amazed by the hours and attention to detail that went into each toy. Santa’s helpers would have a hard time matching the ingenuity and skill of this group of contestants.

Phillips said, “This is the only thing I judge anywhere. I don’t like to judge people’s work because if they’re doing it, they’re doing it. It’s remarkable. I’m not a critic. Just keep doing it. It’s just amazing that you do these things and give them away.”

The decision to place the top five in the adult and youth categories was not easy and was not taken lightly by the woodworking expert. He continually walked up and down the line of toys and seemingly discovered something new each time he walked past. One of the first toys to catch his attention was a rubber band gun that he went back to several times to play with. The gun was created by Owen Marker. The gun would ultimately be declared the first-place winner in the youth division.

Phillips explained he tried to put himself in the mind of a young child going to the Christmas tree on Christmas morning. “What would they go to first,” he asked?

Earning second place in the youth division was Beau Beatty with his marble board game. The plinko style game has moving parts that allow the player to create the game the way they want it to be. According to Phillips, this allows the recipient to use their imagination.

Third place was Luke Marker with a food set. The set included a knife and several pieces of realistically looking food created out of wood. The faux food was sliced and held together with Velcro to allow a future chef the opportunity to pretend to cut the food.

Max Lentz created a toy camera that earned fourth place. The camera included several sheets of paper and Crayons so the user can create their own pictures.

Fifth place was a ring toss game created by Gavin Frey. His brother, four-year-old Griffin Frey, received a special prize for his wooden robot.

Additional contestants in the youth division were Owen Frey and Cylas Beatty.

In the adult division, John Burnett took first place with an incredible hand-crafted work bench. The bench featured drawers filled with items for the recipient.

Ken Pence’s marble game earned second place. Phillips continually went back to the marble tower to try it out. He commented on how difficult it is to make sure the toy works correctly without the marbles falling off the track.

Neal Burns took third place with a shuffleboard game.

Neal Pleiman’s truck with a load of animals took fourth place. The animals in the hauler are on wheels and can be attached together like a train. The woodworking piece was several toys in one.

Ron Myers earned fifth place with Noah’s Ark. The Ark featured several handcrafted animals.

Phillips said, “This is what Christmas is all about. It’s about hope. You’ve got to think about one thing. Who is going to be getting these presents?” He answered his own question, “A lot of children that need hope more than anything else because they think they’re being left out. When they get a gift like this and they open it up and they see camels, what do you suppose that makes them do? They go to places with their imagination. Without these gifts, it just wouldn’t be the same. This is what the holiday spirit is all about.”

To view the video from the contest visit the Daily Advocate-Early Bird You Tube channel or go to https://youtu.be/LuVdxzfA28g.

To contact Daily Advocate Editor Ryan Berry, email [email protected].

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