Annual P.A.L.-sponsored contest draws 49 teams Sunday morning
By Mike Lauterborn
(Posted to Fairfield.Patch.com 8/22)
© 2011. All Rights Reserved.
Fairfield, CT – As quickly as they rose from the sand, the elaborate sculptures were reclaimed by the rising tide Sunday morning. Their existence was fleeting, but then so are many things on Mother Nature’s grand, ever-dynamic stage.
It was 13 years ago that fellow board members Bob Seirup, Jr. and Pat Dyer hatched the idea to have the Police Athletic League (P.A.L.), the mission of which is to host events and programs for the under-18 set, conduct a Sand Sculpture Contest at Fairfield’s Penfield Beach. This year’s free contest, sponsored by the Bank of Fairfield, attracted 49 teams, some with as many as six members each. As such, an estimated 150 people in all participated. An equal number rooted them on and/or visited their installations, which lined the shorefront in front of the new Pavilion, starting at the tide’s lowest point of the day, around 10 a.m.
Typically, one professional sand castle builder is also featured – essentially hired to erect a remarkable construction usually sponsored by area businesses. Seirup said that this year, though, “Due to the pavilion renovation project, there was going to be difficulty getting the special sand trucked in that the artist needed.”
Contest registration was held on the new Pavilion’s deck, coordinated by Bob Seirup, Sr. and Priscilla Schulz. Among the early registrants were Todd Debek and his son Jack, 14, of Fairfield, who toted a five-gallon bucket crammed with tools they planned to use for sand shaping. The contest had become a Debek family tradition, starting seven years ago, with Todd and Jack competing against the women in their family.
“We’re always in the top three,” said Todd proudly, with regard to past performance. “This year Jack and I are going to do a face – something quick and easy. The girls are going to do a Snoopy, Daffy Duck or Bugs Bunny. In terms of technique, Jack and I last-minute spray down our sculpture with water, to keep it from drying out.” Debek added, “The greatest thing about this event is that everybody wins.”
Another event veteran was Carla Antone, from Norwalk, who had been coming to the contest for the past five years. She was employing family heirlooms – her grandparents’ trowel and shovel – and working from a sketch for the construction of a giant sunflower, with a center that would hold water. Antone was being assisted by Fairfielder Linda Wallimann, who was the artist behind the design concept, which included a special effect. In a hush-hush tone, Antone shared the secret: “We’re going to color the petals with food coloring and water.”
The Norwalker was really throwing herself into the work, furiously digging a moat-like perimeter around a large mound of sand that would become the sunflower. She said sandcastle building usually has a physical toll – “I usually can’t walk the next day from all the bending over.”
Keeping the site safe for sandcastlers, and an eye on the weather, were lifeguards Amanda Reed and Rebecca Stern, wearing trademark Penfield Beach red one-piece swimsuits and camped amid the activities. Reed predicted a big crowd, saying, “People like to come down and see the sandcastles.” Stern countered, “Possible rain could be an unknown factor.”
Moving east up the beach from them, Fairfielder P.J. Clyne and his seven-year-old daughter Alexandra were working on “Three Girls”, which is the name of Clyne’s 21-foot cutty cabin boat, which he keeps in nearby South Benson Marina. “We’re going to try and rebuild her here and be as authentic as possible.”
Meanwhile, fellow Fairfielder Kellie Panus, wearing a wide-brimmed straw hat, was up-sand collecting seagull feathers. “These will be part of the tail of a prehistoric tortoise sculpture,” she explained, having a chuckle about the idea.
In contrast, Fairfielder Keith Magner was quite serious about his project, despite its whimsical name – Buck the Magic Dragon – and hoped the building activity would be an activity that his young son Zachary would embrace.
“I grew up going to Chatham, MA, on the Cape, during the summer from my earliest memory,” Magner said. “We spent all day at the beach making sandcastles, fishing, catching crabs. Sand castle building is a tradition that I wanted to pass on to my son. Zach’s grandfather, James, is also a fine artist, so it’s in his genes.”
The contest was scheduled to run from 10:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., which couldn’t have been more ideal timing, at least this particular morning, given the report of an impending storm – lifeguard Rebecca’s prediction ringing true. In fact, at 12:45, an announcement that the “water is closed due to an approaching thunder condition” was heard over the pavilion’s public address system. By that time, the tide was quickly on the way back up, swirling in and around sand structures, chomping at their perimeters.
The judges, whose identity was concealed and reviewing process unannounced, had bestowed awards upon installations deemed best and now event organizers stepped around quickly to grab, literally, the signs of recognition before they were swallowed by the sea as well. One of the sign collectors was Bob Seirup, Jr., who had kicked off the contest. As he plucked up signs, tucked them under his arm and continued wading along, he reflected, “This is just a great day of family fun.”
FIRST PLACE – “Shark Attack” by Marty Daniels, Patrick Daniels and Joanne Fabry
SECOND PLACE – “Cupcake” by Katy Saladin, Dani Corrigan, Emily Erikson and Alyssa Colleran
THIRD PLACE – “Big Face” by Jack Debek and Todd Debek
FIRST PLACE – “Gumball Machine” by the Swanson family: Vicki, Dave, Sam, Charlie and Maggie
SECOND PLACE – “Twin Towers” by the Frillici family
THIRD PLACE – “Rubber Duck” by Isabella Roca
FIRST PLACE – “Motor Boat with Tube” by Molly Doherty, Jack Doherty, Maddy Markham, Cole Markham and Chase Markham
SECOND PLACE – “Kayak with Dolphins” by Ariana Roca, Natasha Roca and Mikaela Roca
THIRD PLACE – “Turtle With Shell” by Katherine Neely, Haley Neely and Mason Neely
FIRST PLACE – “Penfield Moat” by Kassi Barton, Phill Ferdinand and Vehera Alexandrora
SECOND PLACE – “DC Museum Row” by Rebecca Newman, Jacob Newman, Becca Fink, Max Fink and Daniele Miller
THIRD PLACE – “Vampire Island” by Matt Deutch and Lance Dengelegi
- Winner information provided by Bob Seirup, Jr., Secretary, Police Athletic League
- Winners determined by a panel of three independent, non-associated judges