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14-year-old Charleston artist claims victory ahead of Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament

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West Ashley resident Allie Rodelsperger with her winning entry in the Big Rock Kids Billfish Tournament Art Contest. Provided photo

A victory in North Carolina's prestigious Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament is something to crow about, and a 14-year-old West Ashley angler and artist Allie Rodelsperger can now say she's a Big Rock winner.

The First Baptist School freshman's painting "Coastal Blues" was selected as the top entry in the inaugural Big Rock Kids Billfish Tournament Art Contest. Allie, the daughter of Robert and Holly Renken Rodelsperger, won $500 and her painting will be featured on the back of the 2022 Big Rock Kids Billfish Tournament t-shirts.

"The Big Rock Kids Billfish Tournament is one of three Big Rock tournaments. We have the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament and we also have the Keli Wagner Lady Angler Tournament," said Carlee Sharpe, tournament director and marketing coordinator for the Big Rock events that are headquartered each year in Morehead City, N.C.

"The Kids Billfish Tournament partnered this year with the Arts Council of Carteret County to host their first-ever art contest. The winner was guaranteed to receive a $500 prize and recognition from the Arts Council at the Big Rock tournament in June and the Kids Billfish Tournament in July."

Sharpe said the art contest drew entries from more than 60 artists ranging in age from 6-17 from North and South Carolina. She said Allie's painting and one submitted by her sister Emma, a 7th-grader at First Baptist, both looked like paintings done by professional artists. Proceeds from the sale of the T-shirt will benefit The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Coastal Plains. They are expected to arrive at some point around Easter and can be purchased at thebigrockstore.com, Sharpe said.

You can view the submission gallery at artscouncilcarteret.org. Pieces will also be displayed at the Big Rock Kids Billfish Tournament, July 13-16, 2022.

"Allie's art definitely stood out among all those pieces," Sharpe added. "In the write-up that accompanied her painting she spoke about her hobbies of painting, fishing and boating and said she got the inspiration from the beauty around her in Charleston. She added that her dream was to catch a really big blue marlin like the one in her painting."

Allie's painting was done in acrylic and featured a blue marlin jumping from the dark blue waters of the Atlantic, a map of Carteret County done in a golden tone that resembles the sargassum weed found offshore and the Cape Lookout Lighthouse located on the southern Outer Banks of North Carolina in Carteret County.

Allie said it took about a week, working a couple of hours a day, to complete the painting. She studied various photos of blue marlin, found a map of Carteret County and images of Cape Lookout and sketched her design on canvas before beginning the painting.

Her mother, Holly, teaches two levels of art and photography at First Baptist School and this is Allie's first year of school instruction, although she and her sister both have been working with their mother for several years. Holly said Emma went at the art contest from a different perspective, knowing that the two would be competing.

"Allie is a hard worker and puts a lot of work into her paintings. She and Emma both spend hours on their own time, painting and creating. It's natural to them," Holly said. "Allie felt very confident. She was very excited about the painting. She's really hard on herself but when she finished this one she had this huge smile on her face that said 'I think I got it.' She was really excited."

Allie said she has caught a sailfish and dolphin but never seen a blue marlin out on the ocean, although she saw three that were brought to the dock during the 2017 South Carolina Governor's Cup tournament at Bohicket Marina.

But she would like to change that next summer. Her family has already rented a house for the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament where she will be recognized, and they also plan to return and fish the Kids Billfish Tournament. She's also anxious to visit Cartaret County, where her father lived years ago.