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Team wins $500 at inaugural sandcastle contest in Lido Beach

During the inaugural Seaside Sand-Sculpting Spectacular competition, Frank

During the inaugural Seaside Sand-Sculpting Spectacular competition, Frank Russo of Fort Salonga, left, and Joe Sloboda, of Seaford, work on their piece at Malibu Town Park in Lido Beach on Aug. 31, 2013. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Sandcastle building isn't just child's play.

With bragging rights and a $500 first-place prize on the line, the activity was serious business among competitors of all ages Saturday at the inaugural Seaside Sand-Sculpting Spectacular Competition at Lido Beach.

For the team of Joe Sloboda, 52, of Seaford, and Frank Russo, 56, of Ft. Salonga, sand castle building has grown into a hobby that occupies their time most weekends of the summer.

The men, who have been honing their craft for close to 15 years, spent more than five hours at Saturday's competition, carefully fashioning their team's entry, "Twin Peaks," while beachgoers watched.

Equipped with masonry tools, a water spray bottle and a handful of plastic buckets, the men came prepared for action, and it showed in their majestic Harry Potter-themed castle.

After taking home first place for an effort that event judge Lizzy Katz called "creative, intricate and detailed," Sloboda shared some advice for amateurs looking to get into the business.

"The key is to be constantly watering at all times," he said.

One pile over, Dylan Riley, 24, of Astoria, and Brian Heamie, 23, of Brooklyn, were hard at work on a shark-themed piece that earned the nod for second place in the 13-and-up category.

While Riley's sand castle building experience paled in comparison to the 15-year veteran working nearby, he proved to be a quick learner.

"Water, lots of water," he said as his partner went back to refill buckets of wet sand. "Water, and the right tools. I've got some butter knives and other utensils from my kitchen.”

Town of Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray was on hand to present awards to the first-, second- and third-place winners in both the 12-and-under and 13-and-up age categories. Mike Deery 16, and sister Mary Deery, 14, of Hicksville, took third place in the 13-and-up categories for a turtle-themed piece.

William Villone, 12, along with brother Christian Villone, 10, of Syosset, and Genevieve Reilly were the top two finishers in the 12-and-under category.

The event, which was sponsored by the Town of Hempstead and the MaliBlue Oyster Bar restaurant, was supposed to feature more than 40 competitors, but unbeachlike weather whittled the competition down to just a handful of contestants.

"It's not beach weather. People look up to the sky and see it's not nice and they don't come," Butch Yamali, owner of MaliBlue Oyster Bar, said. “The weather wasn't cooperating."

But for Riley, the threat of inclement weather wasn't about to stop him from enjoying his first sand castle building competition.

"Rain or shine, man," he said, grinning ear-to-ear as he admired his trophy.

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