-By Cindy Butler Focke
The Virginia Beach boardwalk will shine a little brighter this year, thanks to a sixth grade Old Donation School student.
Kylie Zhu’s artwork “Melting Snowman” was selected to be part of the 28th annual Holiday Lights at the Beach. The snowman will join jumping fish, musical crabs, a surfing Santa and more as part of the festive drive-thru holiday light display Nov. 17-Dec. 31.
Representatives from Beach Events stopped by Old Donation School on Oct. 12 to surprise Kylie with the news. Art teacher Cat Gadzinski escorted Kylie and her class to the school foyer, where a group of folks were waiting, including her parents.
Principal Joel Guldenschuh welcomed students and guests, then introduced Beach Events director William Younce, who asked if anyone remembered the art contest for “Holiday Lights at the Beach.”
“One of your classmates is our winner,” Younce said. “Congratulations to Kylie!”
Applause followed and Kylie was presented with a congratulatory plaque. Younce told them Kylie’s artwork was chosen from more than 50 entries from Virginia Beach elementary and middle schools by a team of city officials and members of Beach Events’ steering committee.
“We had a lot of great submissions,” Younce said. “Kylie’s was an overwhelming favorite.”
Her snowman artwork will be transformed into a giant 17 feet tall by 14 feet wide lighted metal structure by local artist Andy Vakos, and part of the holiday lights show for years to come.
Her drawing features a melting snowman wearing a sunhat. Kylie said she added a hat “because it’s always hot in Virginia Beach.” She said the perched cardinal on top of the hat signifies the state bird of Virginia.
The artwork was completed and submitted during the spring while Kylie was in Leigh Drake’s fifth grade art class. Drake is now the visual fine arts instructional specialist for Virginia Beach City Public Schools. She described her former student as “an incredible artist.”
“You give her a prompt, and she excels,” Drake said.
Kylie’s parents, Yue Lu and Yu Zhu, hugged their daughter. They knew she was receiving an award but were given no details. Kylie’s mother said her daughter has been drawing since she was about 3 years old.
“I’m so proud and so happy,” she said.
“She’s always been very talented,” added her father.
Younce also presented a special invitation to Kylie’s family. Both Kylie and display designer Andy Vakos will be honored during the unveiling of the “Melting Snowman” light display on Nov. 16 near The Oceanfront Inn, 2901 Atlantic Avenue. That same evening, the community is invited to ride bikes for free along the boardwalk for “Holiday Lights Bike Night,” which will begin at 10th Street.
While you’re at Holiday Lights at the Beach, stop by the boat captain display at 24th Street in front of the Virginia Surf & Rescue Museum to see how students designed a wind and solar powered energy station illuminating the display and shedding light on renewable energy. On Bike Night, Environmental Studies Program students will be preforming a concert powered by this renewable energy and they will be energized to talk about their work with the public.
“Holiday Lights at the Beach” officially opens Nov. 17 and will stretch from 2nd Street at the oceanfront to 33rd Street.
Kylie said she’s glad she entered the contest and can’t believe her artwork was chosen to be part of the annual event. She had some advice for others: “Even if you don’t think it’s going to happen; it might, so keep dreaming.”
Want to go?
What: Bayport Credit Union Holiday Lights at the Beach, presented by Food Lion
When: Nov. 17-Dec. 31, 5-10 p.m.
Where: Entry at 2nd Street, the Virginia Beach boardwalk
Cost: $25 per vehicle Monday – Thursday; $30 Friday-Sunday. Tickets must be purchased in advance.