With the threat of rain looming, Artie Knapp calmly surveyed his canvas. Unlike most artists working in the outdoors, the rain wasn’t going to ruin his work.
As one of the dedicated participants in East Hampton’s annual sandcastle contest, Knapp’s canvas was the sand.
“When I’m building these sculptures, people always ask me what would happen if it started raining,” said Knapp, 64, of Massapequa. “I just say, ‘I’d get wet,’ and keep building.”
Knapp was not the only sculptor willing to get wet in exchange for the opportunity to play in the sand. Forty-five other groups -- with a maximum of six people per group -- flooded the Atlantic Avenue Beach in Amagansett on Saturday to compete in the 22nd annual East Hampton Sandcastle Contest, hosted by The Clamshell Foundation.
The nonprofit foundation, which aids other charities and local causes on the East End, raises money at the competition by charging a $10 entry fee, selling t-shirts and other merchandise and accepting donations.
Rossetti Perchik, 62, of East Hampton, director of the foundation, started the competition in 1992. A year later, Perchik founded The Clamshell Foundation and moved the competition under its auspices.
“Here at the East End we have some of the most beautiful beaches in the world; a sandcastle competition is just a natural fit,” Perchik said. “Today the weather scared off a few people, but we have loyal contestants who know that a day like today is good for building since the sprinkles keep you cool and keep the sand wet.”
The 46 groups were divided into five categories: Sand Fleas (children up to 8 years old, with an adult), Sand Hoppers (kids 9 to 15 years old), Sand Tribes (families), Sand Shapers (adults) and Sand Pros (professional sculptors). Beginning at 9 a.m., the groups had six hours until the judges made their rounds. The sculptures were judged based on originality, animation, texture, quality and fun.
Taking home this year’s overall prize was a “shocked” Roane family, hailing from upstate Chappaqua but vacationing for the summer in Montauk. The Roanes -- Don Roane, his wife, Jennifer, and daughters, Claire, 11, and Emma, 13 -- braved the rain and wind to construct their “Solar Bears” sculpture, consisting of a family of three polar bears relaxing on the beach and constructing its own sandcastle.
“We were throwing out sculpture ideas last night at the dinner table and I suggested the ‘Solar Bears’ and we went with it,” said Don Roane, whose family also participated in the contest last year. “We learned a lot last year, like how you need to keep the sand wet, which the rain helped us do today.”
Winners were also named in each individual category.
Knapp -- who placed third in the Sand Pros category with his “Indian Princess” sculpture -- attracted a crowd as he finished his work. As spectators gathered to see what he was working on, he would then offer them a look into his scrapbook, which holds photographs and articles of the sculptures -- made from sand, soap and pumpkins -- that Knapp has made over the last 31 years.
Knapp, who works in construction for a living, said his love of building sandcastles began when he first introduced the art to this son, Jeff, more than 30 years ago.
“I brought him to the store to buy some supplies to build sandcastles,” Knapp said. “After that, we went to the beach and, from that day on, he never picked them [the supplies] back up and I never put them down.”
Perchik said the competition regularly brings together old and new talent, and he was happy to see the Roanes family win.
“I’m not surprised to see them win because we always have a new, talented crowd coming into the competition each year,” he said.