It’s a wonderland of sand!
Dolphins, lions, and seals — not to mention castles — popped up out of Coney Island’s beach for the 23rd year in a row, as hundreds of artists descended on the People’s Playground for the annual Sand-Sculpting Contest.
The molders came in all ages and from all over the New York Metro area, shaping mounds of sand either individually or as teams.
Sponsors said the competition is a boon for commerce in the amusement district, and raises Sodom by the Sea’s profile as a destination.
“The event brings together the local community, businesses, and visitors for a day of true family fun,” said Johanna Zaki, spokeswoman for the Alliance for Coney Island business group.
But for the contestants, it was all about sand-sculpting as an art form.
“It’s very therapeutic,” said William “The Sandman” Petrosino, whose team placed second in the group competition. “It teaches you patience, and to live in the now, since once you make your sculpture, you can’t take it with you, you have to leave it.”
Petrosino — a personality on Kingsboro Community College radio and a Coney Island resident — said he and his teammates practiced once a week all summer long to prepare for the contest. When they hit the sand, the three decided to transform their pile of sand into three lions, and called the work “Pride and Joy.”
“In the morning, I woke up, I didn’t know what we were going to create,” said Petrosino, whose team took home $200.
Other winners said their work was similarly spontaneous.
“We built on the fly. We just let our imaginations run wild,” said first-place winner Rich Demand of Seacliff, Long Island.
Demand teamed up with buddies Tim O’Keefe and John Alberga to create “Merlin’s Castle,” a fantastic structure of gates and towers.
“We gave it a real airy kind of feel,” said Demand.
The champion said he and his friends came in second in last year’s contest — and vowed to return to Brooklyn in 2014 to defend their trophy against any challengers.
“We went back with the attitude, ‘we’re going to win this time,’ ” said Demand, whose group won $400. “Now we have to hold the title.”Reach reporter Will Bredderman at wbredderma