The 24th Annual Coney Island Sand Sculpting Contest will draw hundreds of people to compete in group and individual sand sculpting in what one group contestant
During the day of the sand sculpting contest, the beach "looks like the cantina in the Star Wars movie," said Alberga, the engineering manager for a food machinery company.
The contestants who vie for prizes ranging from
"The sand in
Past entries have included elephants, giant brains, a pride of lions, renderings of
Hundreds of such contests have washed into seaside towns worldwide to boost local economies, noted Long, who is paid
Some people speculate that eons worth of Coppertone percolating into the
"We're always debating why it's such great sand. We can build three feet higher on Coney than on
"I LOVE working with it," Alberga rhapsodized.
"Sand castlers" as they're sometimes called, are creative people who can't bear idleness. They'd rather be raising a barn than lolling in the hay and they love turning a day at the beach into a competitive challenge. "OCD is what you have to have," to be a sand sculptor, said Long, using the abbreviation for obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Cooperative "castling" teaches friends to stick together, like, well, the legendary Coney sand. Alberga and O'Keefe, who compete with a third pal, learned their team works best when jamming not unlike an improvisational band. "The only time we've ever had strife is when we had a plan," O'Keefe recalled.
"It's always add, add, add. You never look at someone's stuff and say, 'I'm going to do that over!'" said Alberga.
"We're tweakers! We circle around and say, 'You don't mind if I reach out with my trowel and tweak this a little, do you?'" elaborated O'Keefe.
Sand carvers -- who show up with tools, molds and hoses -- aren't averse to philosophical musings on their ephemeral art. Reconciling oneself to the fact that one's labors would be demolished, "took some getting used to," admitted Long, who declines to watch the erosion or destruction of his creations and leaves "while they're thoroughly intact."
"We've learned so much castling over the years," said Alberga. "You know in advance it isn't going to last, so you learn to deal with disappointment, to pace yourself, to pick yourself back up and do it again. It's a whole zen thing," Alberga explained.
"People are fascinated because we do all that work and then walk away," said O'Keefe. But, he added, "nothing is permanent. Nothing! If you get a day at the beach, a cocktail and you take a picture of what you made, you win."
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