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Coney Island Sand Sculpting Contest brings out NYC's best sand masters

Frank Russo, of Seaford, and Joe Sloboda, of

Frank Russo, of Seaford, and Joe Sloboda, of Fort Salonga, with their winning castle, Hogwarts Castle. Photo Credit: Caroline Linton

They came from all over the five boroughs with one purpose: To turn a lump of sand into art.

Castles, sea turtles, dragons and more lined the beach at Coney Island on Saturday for the 25th Annual Sand Sculpting Contest.

"I look forward to it every year," said Gilbert Ortega of Linden, New Jersey, who built a replica of Mount Rushmore. "This has been my hobby for three years now."

First place in the adult group category went to Long Islanders Frank Russo of Seaford, and Joe Sloboda, of Fort Salonga, who spent eight hours building Hogwarts Castle.

Russo and Sloboda, who are cousins, said they started building sand castles 20 years ago, when their kids were small. "We do this for the love of it ... It's a family affair."

Winners collected cash prizes. But most of the participants said they were there because of their passion for sand sculpting, not prizes.

John Martinez, a plumber who lives in Brooklyn, spent more than four hours building his castle. "I just do it for the fun," Martinez said.

Participants use just water, tools and, of course, sand to build their castles. Some experienced sand builders bring building forms to get the height on their sculptures.

This was the first year at the contest for Rob Marino, of Bergen County, New Jersey, and Katri Rainhold, of Manhattan. They had to rebuild after their first attempt at sculpture fell apart.

"Anytime we come to the beach, we're always building something," Marino said.


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