30th annual Coney sand sculpting competition goes off without a hitch

The 30th Annual Coney Island Sand Sculpting Competition made its triumphant return to the beach off of Riegelmann Boardwalk on Saturday, Aug. 13.
Photo by Adrian Childress

Extravagant creations populated the sands of Coney Island Beach during the return of the peninsula’s beloved sand sculpting competition on Aug. 13.

The competition — a staple in the community — took place just off the Riegelmann Boardwalk between Stillwell Avenue and W. 12th Street, and was attended by approximately 3,000 people, all eager to watch the array of sand sculptures be created.

“It definitely helped bring business to our community and also added excitement to a visit to Coney Island,” said Alexandra Silversmith, executive director of the Alliance for Coney Island, the People’s Playground’s business boosting group, which puts on the competition each year. “We love hosting events that are fun and unusual to spark interest in Coney Island. This event being the 30th year was particularly notable and many annual attendees were excited to see it back!”

A sculptor works on their masterpiece.Photo by Adrian Childress
A sculptor used her platform to raise awareness for breast cancer.Photo by Adrian Childress

People of all ages gathered to make sculptures and structures of all types. Dozens of castles, palaces, and statues adorned the shoreline, competing for prizes in four categories: individual, adult group, family, and people’s choice. 

Winners in the first three categories were chosen by a trio of judges. The fourth award — the people’s choice award — encourages the community to participate by allowing them to vote on a fourth winner. 

This year’s winners included Gary Feliciano, crowned in the individual category; Amy Mu and Cathleen Villapudua, who took home top prize in the adult group category; and Francesca Gallina, who won the family category. Jose Aguirre was crowned the winner of the people’s choice category.

Winners Amy Mu and Cathleen Villapudua with their top prize sculpture.Photo by Adrian Childress
Crowds gathered to marvel at the creations.Photo by Adrian Childress
A sandcastle pays homage to Brooklyn Community Services.Photo by Adrian Childress

Overall, $2,000 total was awarded, with $500 going to each winner of the four categories. 

This year marked the competition’s triumphant return, following an unfortunate cancellation that took place last year due to rising COVID-19 cases caused by the Delta variant surge. But, Silversmith said, this year went off without a hitch.

“It had been a few years since we hosted but it all went smoothly,” she said.