Annual Sand Sculpting Contest takes over Coney Island Beach

Beach building: More than 200 contestants worked to build 70 sand sculptures at Coney Island’s annual Sand Sculpting Contest.
Derrick Watterson

Palaces, statues, and sculptures rose out of Coney Island Beach as locals faced off in the 29th annual Sand Sculpting Contest on Saturday.

The artists set to work off the Riegelmann Boardwalk between W. 10th and W. 12th streets on Aug. 17, creating their gritty masterpieces, including a statue of an outstretched woman face-down on the ground, which won in the individual adult category, and an intricate castle decorated with flowers and sand dye, which took home best statue by a group of adults.

For one sculptor, the highlight of the event was watching other participants carve their creations.

“My favorite part was seeing the competition,” said John Sanders, a construction worker and poet from Bushwick who built a sand diorama of the 7 train riding past Queens’ Citi Field, home of the New York Mets.

Sanders has participated in the contest for three consecutive years, and despite his auspicious surname, he has yet to win a prize — although the competition has helped him hone his building techniques.

“I use a trowel and a taper knife,” he said, claiming that the tools helped his sculptures appear smoother and more finished.

Sculptors may have spent hours carving their sandy creations, but the judges had their work cut out for them, too. According to one of the three judges, choosing winners from the competition’s 70 contenders was no day at the beach.

“It was very difficult because people do such amazing jobs,” said Alexandra Silversmith, the executive director of the Alliance for Coney Island, which co-hosted the event with the Brooklyn Community Services, a nonprofit social services provider. “We were evaluating everything by creativity, difficulty, and execution. It’s actually a really hard decision.”

Winners of the three categories — family, adult group, and individual — each took home a $250 cash prize, Applebee’s gift cards, and a gift bag, while second place won $100, and third place snagged $50.

But for Silversmith, the event was more about fun than it was about winning.

“You see the families and the groups that came out, and especially the individuals who put so much energy into their sculptures,” she said. “[I love] to see the dedication and creativity.”

Reach reporter Rose Adams at radams@schnepsmedia.com or by calling (718) 260–8306. Follow her on Twitter @rose_n_adams

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