OLD ORCHARD BEACH — Limited only by their imaginations, their skill at wielding plastic pails and shovels, and finding whatever sea creatures had washed up on the beach, 31 teams competed Sunday in the 25th annual Ocean Park Family Sand Sculpture Competition.

The top prize went to a team that sculpted a dragon from wet sand. They used starfish for the dragon’s eyes and placed dozens of sand dollars to form a castle wall that was erected behind the creature.

People from all over North America participated. One team drove from Ottawa, Canada to take part in the contest, which requires that each team use at least one child to build their sculpture. The theme of this year’s contest was “Castles by the Sea.”

“Everyone had a hand in building this,” said Scott Strachan, who drove nine hours from Ottawa, Canada, with his wife, Voula, and his brother-in-law Kosta Koulafakos, and his wife, Kendra, to build a sand castle on abeach in Maine.

The families named their castle, Kronborg Castle, after a castle by the same name that they visited last year in northern Denmark. Their castle featured a deep hole lined with tinfoil and filled with water thatStrachan said represented the ocean. They even added Denmark’s national flag to the castle wall.

The Canadians fell short in their quest to win a trophy — trophies were awarded to the top three teams — as did a family from Massachusetts that used a person in their sculpture.

Judges scored each entry based on artistic ability, originality, design detail, use of space and special effects. Paints were allowed, but hadto be water soluble.

Seven-year-old Emma McPartlen of Worcester, Mass., suggested that her family place her at the top of a mound of sand. Her team then covered her with sand from the mid torso down to her feet and carved indentations into the mound that looked like the scales on a mermaid’s tail.

McPartlen also let her team drape seaweed over her head. As an added touch, McPartlen smiled and waved to passerbys.

The girl’s grandmother, Kathy Bourque of Northboro, thought it was too late to enter, but when she found out it wasn’t, she quickly registered McPartlen’s team. There was no entry fee.

“It exceeded my expectations,” said McPartlen’s uncle, Jason Penton of Haverhill. Penton said he started shaping the sand around his niece into a volcano, until McPartlen came up with the mermaid idea. “I didn’t expect it to go this far.”

Another unsuccessful, but valiant effort was put in by the ‘Cranshaw Tribe.’ Their family has owned property at Ocean Park since the 1950s, according to Carolyn Stevens.

Stevens said her family, who are descendants of the Cranshaws, come to Ocean Park every July to celebrate Independence Day. Ocean Park is a small seaside village just south of Old Orchard Beach’s downtown. Ocean Park was founded in 1881 as a result of the Free Will Baptist movement. Ocean Park became known as a religious and educational retreat for the Chautauqua movement.

Stevens, who lives in Seminole, Fla., watched as her son and daughter and their children built one of the largest sand castles in the competition.

Stevens’ granddaughter, Riley Stevens, 11, of Albany, N.Y. came up with the idea for the castle’s design by drawing it the night before on a paper plate.

“It’s amazing how well they have all kept at it,” Stevens said. “I have no idea how they did it, but I am proud of them for trying.”

Shortly after 5 p.m. as a crowd of more than 100 people looked on, Olivia Taggert, the recreation director for the Ocean Park Association,

announced the winners.

Sarah Sparks of Falmouth and her friend, Phil Zdanowski of Syracuse, N.Y. accepted the first place award. Their sand sculpture featured a dragon whose head, torso, and feet jutted out from the wall of a sand castle. Several American flags flew from the castle’s towers. A bright yellow hand shovel was placed in thedragon’s mouth to represent fire.

Zdanowski said members of his team made the design up as they went along, using starfish and sand dollars they found on the beach.

“It was our first time doing this,” Sparks added. “It was a team effort.”


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