Amagansett’s Atlantic Avenue Beach once again became an impromptu art gallery on Saturday, featuring imaginative sandcastles and sculptures molded and crafted by families and professionals.Beachgoers laughed when their attention was called to a giant snail appearing to slowly invade a small town. “Awwwww”s were heard as people passed a family of pudgy polar bears playing on the beach. An elephant emerged from the sand as if that was its natural habitat.
At the 22nd annual East Hampton Sandcastle Contest, 42 groups worked furiously to create the most awe-inspiring or humorous sand sculptures, hoping to win first place in each of their categories. Despite a drizzly day at the beach, sand sculptors raised $2,300 for the Clamshell Foundation, which sponsors the contest.
Nearing the end of the contest, Josh Brussell, a science teacher at East Hampton High School, Jay Jamet, and his father, Marcel, put the finishing touches on their giant snail sculpture. Called “The Snail of Tears,” the figure hovered above small buildings, signaling impending doom for village people. The sculpture took approximately five hours to complete and required many tools, including shovels, trowels and a spritzer to keep the sand wet and compacted.
“When you add destruction, people get excited,” Mr. Brussell said, standing among his tools. “Every year we try to do something different.”
Mr. Brussell’s imaginative sculptures—a legless man in a raft surrounded by sharks and a whale breaking a boat apart, for example—have won favor with the judges in the past. He won first place in the professional category twice over the years; this year’s snail earned him an honorable mention.
The overall winner, the Roane family of Chappaqua, took home a sandcastle trophy for “Solar Bears,” a mama and baby polar bear building a sandcastle, while papa bear soaked up the sun.
According to Rossetti Perchik, the foundation’s executive director, the family’s creation was “by far the coolest one.”
“It was animated, well-executed, and cute as hell,” he said. “You can’t beat the cute factor.”
Jennifer Roane, the mama bear herself, said her family worked in the sand for almost four hours but took several breaks to swim in the ocean. She said she came up with the idea at the dinner table the night before. “It’s not a perfect science,” she said. “This is our third year, and we learn something each year.”
Other castles and sculptures gained fans, like “Elephansett,” an elephant seemingly swimming in a watering hole with brush around her.
Henry Moreton and his family, who live in California but visit every summer, have participated in the contest every year for the last eight years. Last year they crafted a hippo, and the year before a pack of lions. He said this year’s elephant took more than six hours; his family worked from a photo of an elephant to guide them.
“Pool Sharks,” a visual pun, displayed a game of pool interrupted by a school of sharks “swimming” around inside the pool table.
“Every year there are a bunch that are just really, truly beautiful,” Mr. Perchik said. “People spend a lot of time on them and practice beforehand.”
The sandcastle contest draws contestants and spectators from across the country. Unfortunately, this year’s rainy weather affected the turnout, according to Mr. Perchik. Typically, 60 to 65 groups enter the contest, but only 42 joined up this year. Mr. Perchik said, though, that the $2,300 raised was just about as much as they get every year.
The Clamshell Foundation is a not-for-profit group that donates approximately $5,000 each year in college scholarships and to several organizations, including food pantries, the East Hampton Town Trustees for shellfish seeding and to the U.S. Coast Guard for boating safety classes. Over the years, the Clamshell Foundation has given out $125,000 to local groups.
Mr. Perchik said the sandcastle contest always has a great turnout.
“The reason I think this is so much fun is that it’s truly a primal experience,” he said. “We don’t get our hands dirty a lot, but when we go to the beach, we’re always doing something with the sand—pushing it around with your feet, making a pillow for your head—there is something in our human DNA that we have to make something.”