Savvy sand sculptors go with the grain

June 22, 1994|By Dail Willis | Dail Willis,Ocean City Bureau of The Sun

OCEAN CITY — Ocean City--It was a day to shift with the sand, to let art take its course.

The 28th annual Sand Sculpture Contest drew 117 entrants yesterday to (where else?) Castle in the Sand Hotel at 37th Street and the beach. There were people who planned ahead and people who just found the shape under the sand; people who arrived with serious shovels, bricklayer's trowels and industrial buckets and people who improvised with pancake turners, dustpans and children's pails.

But a last-minute bit of inspiration, and five and a half hours of sand-shoveling, carried Betsy Harrison and her two sons into first place. Mrs. Harrison, an Ocean City resident, was one of those who began at 9 a.m., when the contest opened.

"We're going to make a dock with pilings and a rowboat -- I think!" Mrs. Harrison said. "I decided late last night I'd try it. I figured, if it didn't work, at least there won't be another one like it!"

Not all the contestants were as free-form as Mrs. Harrison, however. A little ways down the beach, a three-generation team was shoveling sand with precision and a lot of big shovels they brought with them on vacation.

"He's got a little sketch for each part," said Irene Lemons proudly, pointing to her husband, Jim, who was shaping Fred Flintstone's car with a bricklayer's trowel and a 5-gallon bucket of water. "He draws it all out at home."

She and her husband, daughter and grandchildren plan their vacation around the contest, she said. It was their fourth year of competition, and it all started when they took a sand-sculpting class sponsored by the city at the Boardwalk several years ago.

"The rest is history -- and practice!" Mr. Lemons said, as his family worked on the elaborate reproduction of Bedrock they were titling "Welcome to Bedrock. A Man's Home Is His Castle."

Last year, they won fourth place with a sculpture called "Aladdin," Mrs. Lemons said.

Nearby, another entrant had taken an equally topical, though less detailed, approach.

"It's called 'The Chase' -- see, there's O. J.'s Bronco!" explained Marty Lehman of Sunbury, Pa., pointing to the two-car sand sculpture her son Dave was working on.

Beside them, a magic dragon was rising from the sand, helped along by John Cestone and Celestia Ward. "He started out as a pup . . . my theory about sand sculpting is the sculpture is there, you just have to find it," Mr. Cestone said, clearly no stranger to Michelangelo's famous remark on carving marble.

The sculpture contest stretched along the beach on both sides of the hotel, drawing observers from as far away as 94th Street. The atmosphere was festive, but the competition was serious for some.

"I hope we win -- have you seen any other good kids' ones?" asked Eddie Lancaster, 10. He and his friend Jeff Miller, both from Virginia, were making a large crab.

"They have all these carpenter tools and stuff -- we have buckets and our hands," added Jeff, 11, eyeing the Flintstones edifice.

The day wore on, and the sculptures took on details -- a crab claw here, a car wheel there. The dragon developed a beatific smile. Dino came to Bedrock.

Stadiums were popular with young contestants -- Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Crabs, fish and turtles sprouted from the sand, brought up by young hands and kept in place with water, lots of it.

The judging was slated for 2:30, and at 2 p.m., most contestants were finishing up, focusing hard.

Mrs. Harrison added a last-minute improvisation to her boat and dock: a duck floating by the boat. Mr. Cestone and Ms. Ward etched scales on their "Happy Dragon" with a pencil. Buckets, a pancake turner, a crab kettle and a roasting pan littered the sand as the Richey family, from Pittsburgh, put finishing touches on their "Giant Turtle" -- "It's become a family tradition, but NEVER did we make one this big!" said Ivy Fodor, a Richey family relative, as her son and his cousin worked in the sand.

As the judges walked by each sculpture, the contestants watched or offered explanations -- "We've even got the music!" said Mrs. Lemons, clutching a judge's arm as her granddaughter sat by Bedrock with a red boombox blasting "The Flintstones" theme.

At 4:30, contestants gathered on the patio at the Castle in the Sand to learn who won what. The Richeys' giant crab took fourth place, and Bedrock came in third. The Happy Dragon -- a crowd favorite -- came in second, and then Adam Showell, the owner of Castle in the Sand, coaxed a drum roll out of the disc jockey and announced Mrs. Harrison's rowboat was the top winner.

"I can't believe it -- I'm so surprised!" said Mrs. Harrison as her son spit-shined the trophy in her arms. She stopped by the table XTC of the second-place winner to exchange congratulations, and a comparison of sunburns and sore muscles quickly followed. Jim and Irene Lemons, third-place winners, did a quick victory dance to Bill Haley's "Rock Around The Clock" before they started planning ahead.

"Next year, second place!" said Mr. Lemons. "We got fourth last year, third this year . . ."

THE WINNERS

ADULTS AND FAMILIES

First place: "The Boat and The Dock," Betsy Harrison, Ocean City

Second place: "The Happy Dragon," John Cestone, Ocean City, and Celestia Ward, Las Vegas

Third place: "Back to Bedrock -- The Flintstones," Jim Lemons and family, Falls Church, Va.

Fourth place: "The Giant Turtle," the Richey family, Pittsburgh

CHILDREN 13 AND YOUNGER

First place: "The Sailfish," Kristy Bradenburg, Severna Park

Second place: "The Elephant," Dawn Zacharias, Pittsburgh

Third place: "The Alligator and Crab," no contestant name listed, Glenshaw, Pa.

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