24th annual Coney Island Sand Sculpting Contest

Grain of doubt: Sand sculpture winners pull through after last-minute collapse

The Brooklyn Paper
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Photo gallery

Wild ride: Sculptors memorialized the Luna Park’s newest rollercoaster — the Thunderbolt.
Defend the keep!: Darya Feklistova’s dragon is actually protecting her castle. The wyrm clutches an attempted invader’s skull as a warning, she said.
Bodacious: Cassaundra Wright is hard at work on her “Ninja Sea Turtle.”
Skyscraper: Joe Sloboda and Frank Russo took first place for “Castle to the Sky.” The spire partially collapsed an hour before judging, but Sloboda and Russo patched up the tower in time to take gold.
Mad props: Najatt Ajarar’s creation, “Dad,” incorporated sandals, a hat, and a — what else but a Nathan’s cup — as props.

Two winners of the 24th annual Coney Island Sand Sculpting Contest didn’t crumble after their creation caved one hour before the judging.

“I’ve got to tell you, I was surprised when they said we got the gold,” said Joe Sloboda, who won first place in the team division along with cousin Frank Russo for their creation “Castle to the Sky.”

The pair tried to build a 10-foot-tall, high-rise sand castle in a Tower-of-Babel-esque affront to natural law, but the powers that be crashed their party when the top two feet of the tower abruptly tumbled to the earth.

Replacing the spoiled spire would have risked the entire structure, but the builders didn’t bury their heads in the sand — instead they dressed up the minaret’s remains, Sloboda said.

“We just made more detail and kept going,” he said.

The duo started building the sandy skyscrapers 20 years during beach outings with their children, but sculpting became so ingrained in the cousins that they started entering competitions, Sloboda said.

Like true pros, the pair travelled from Long Island to Brooklyn twice in recent weeks to practice on Coney Island’s sandy shores.

“You need the conditions,” Sloboda said, “The sand makes all the difference.”

Winners in other categories included a giant Lady Liberty and a replica of the Freedom Tower and Ground Zero. The contest, which is organized by Astella Development Corporation and Brooklyn Community Services, raised raised $8,000 for victims of Hurricane Sandy.

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at or by calling (718) 260-8303. Follow him on Twitter @MJaeger88.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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