As the fog rolled in and the tide inched closer, Paige Carroll and her team worked rigorously to finish digging the moat and wall protecting their sand kingdom.
On Thursday, the 9-year-old and four other boys made up one of 18 teams competing in the first sand castle contest of the season at Hither Hills State Park in Montauk. The contests run on Thursdays, between 9:30 and 11 a.m., until Aug. 29.
“The kids love digging in the sand making castles,” said her mother, Kathryn Carroll, of Port Washington. “They’ve been talking about Montauk’s sand castle contest all year.”
Their kingdom, which included a castle atop a hill, a fortress and a village surrounded by a moat, won the team first place for the second year in a row in the 11-16 age group (Carroll, though younger, was slipped in). They won bragging rights and T-shirts, along with two other teams in other age groups.
Another team, consisting of Grace Nevin and her cousins, in past competitions had created a sea monster destroying a ship, Egyptian pyramids and even the Nikon Theater at Jones Beach.
This year, the team of eight won first place in the 17-and-over age group for recreating the “Three Little Pigs” fairy tale. They built the Big Bad Wolf out of sand and three small houses made of sticks, tall grass and stones with seaweed roofs.
“We decided to go back to our childhood and come up with something everyone would get,” said Nevin, 16, of upstate Brewster. “It’s great that we won, but it’s not all about that. It’s tradition for our family to spend time together doing this in the summer and it’s fun.”
Patricia and Jack Randazzo, members of the park’s Camper Assistance Program, judged the various sand castles based on creativity and the story behind each.
“Every year, I see something new. This time, I saw a lady bug, turtles, a fairy tale come to life, monsters and castles,” said Patricia Randazzo, 59, of Nesconset. “This contest has been going on for well over 30 years and I find it’s the highlight of the week for campers.”
Many of the parents watching their children create sand castles were themselves at one point involved in the contest as a children, Randazzo said.
Joe and Janine Rao, who have been camping at the park for 38 years, have been bringing their children Sarah, 8, Joey, 7, and Charlie, 4, partly for the contest for years, but today was their first time winning first place in their age group, 10 and under.
The children created their version of the Montauk monster, with fangs, two faces and stingers.
“We’re leaving on Saturday, so this is a great way to end our camping trip,” said Joe Rao, 42, of Bay Shore. “I just can’t believe how much fun they have playing with sand.”