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Coney Island Sand Sculpting Competition postponed due to COVID variant

August 11, 2021 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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For 29 years, the sand on Coney Island’s beach “went vertical” once a year when dozens of sand artists and groups of artists took part in the 29th annual Sand Sculpting Competition.

The most common designs have been the classic castle designs, but artists have built other sand artworks too, such as people, land animals, marine animals such as octopi and crocodile, outer-space creatures and much more. In 2019, one sand artist even crafted a hand holding a sign that said, Abolish ICE.”

This year, however, due to the rising number of cases of the Delta variant of COVID-19 and the high level of touchpoints in the contest, the Alliance for Coney Island and Brooklyn Community Services, the co-hosts of the event, have announced that the fun event will be postponed until summer of 2022.  

“Both organizations look forward to hosting a free fun-filled event for all to enjoy next year and encourage you to follow their social media @coneyislandfun for up-to-date information on events for the rest of the season,” the official statement read. 

“I think every year more and more people know about it, the crowds are bigger,” Kristina Reintamm of Brooklyn Community Services said in 2019, according to an Eagle article from that year. “It seems to be becoming more and more of a real Coney Island signature event.”

The event was free and open to the public, accessible from the Coney Island Boardwalk at West 12th Street. Sculptors had four hours to craft their design. As the clock ticked closer to the cutoff time, swarms of beachgoers flocked to the sand to appreciate the art and take photos in front of the pieces.

Joe Sloboda and his cousin Frank Russo built a sand version of , Hogwarts from Harry Potter, drawing crowds almost immediately after they started.

“We’ve been doing this for years, we started with our kids when they were very, very small, and now they’re adults and we still come to the beach as a family to enjoy the time together and make castles,” Sloboda told the Eagle. 

The year 2019 was the first year the contest gave out cash prizes for three contestants in each category, family, individual and adult group. The prizes were $250, $100 and $50. 

Passers-by were able to register on the spot and compete. Gary Feliciano, for example, was watching the news in the morning, saw the contest was being held in a few hours, and ran over from Sheepshead Bay to take part. He won in 2017 as well as in 2019 in the individual adult category for his “Climbing Woman,” a figure of a woman climbing a mountain.

As part of the contest, there were several sand monuments that were not part of the competition. They were made by sponsors such as Dunkin’ Donuts, as well as the Alliance for Coney Island. 

In general, some veteran artists worked from carefully pre-planned designs, but others “gave free reign to their imagination, opting for a more improvisational approach,” the Eagle reported. 

The event was organized in 1900 as a family event, and both children and adults have competed. One sand-sculpting team in 2017, “Team Dragon,” had 11 members ranging from 4 to 40 years old. Of course, they sculpted a dragon, and they won second prize in the mixed-age group category.


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