Even though summer may be over and winter is quickly approaching, we all need a reminder that summer will soon return and with it, one of the most loved activities that the NJ Shore has to offer: the annual NJ Sand Castle Contest!
Even though everyone dreads the winter cold, at least New Jersey residents have warm summers to look forward to. As a coastal state, everyone knows that there are numerous beaches in NJ. People work year-round attempting to perfect their design so they can come out to one of the Jersey Shore’s most popular towns and craft the sandcastle that will, without a doubt, blow the judges away. What draws people to participate in the sand castle competition year after year?
Reasons people sign up every year
One thing that draws many people to compete every year is the friendly, yet still competitive, nature of the event. Typically everyone in the area makes their way to the local beach, gets their shovels and buckets ready and sculpts their heart out. The contests are generally open to all ages, meaning everyone in the family, or the family as a whole, can compete to win for their category. Additionally, prizes are awarded to those lucky few who have created unbelievably breathtaking masterpieces and it is that desire for the top award that draws some competitors to the sand.
While the competition may be fierce because some people want to be number one, others put their name on the list because they are seeking a simple, fun day on the gorgeous NJ beach, building something that makes them happy.
There are countless reasons as to why people choose to enter these contests, ranging from the thrill of competition to the sheer happiness that they feel as they sculpt something out of their mind’s eye. The ultimate reason for competing is not nearly as important as the fact that so many people have shown interest in sandcastle competitions over the years that it has become a state-wide discussion. Regularly, around the time that the contest is taking place and shorty after its conclusion, people are chatting about the sand sculptures, who had the best design and, most interesting to those who were simply a spectator at the event or who won the highest prize.
Skill needed to enter a NJ sandcastle contest
While many people may believe that only the most talented artists can compete in yearly sandcastle contests throughout New Jersey, that is not the case! Many of these beach contests are open to everyone, not just town residents, people with art degrees or those falling into a specific age range. The majority of the time, children as young as 5 and those falling into the senior citizen category are sculpting only a few feet away from each other, bringing their creativity to life. Although most Shore towns make an effort to categorize competitors into age ranges so judging is fair and unbiased, there is generally no age limit on entering the contest.
The judges, although eager to see the amazing artistic skills of some competitors, do not award prizes solely on ability. There are no required skill levels when it comes to competing in a sandcastle competition. Rather, judges know people put a lot of effort into their designs and likely began their fundamental basis in the winter, so they look at the whole picture: creativity, design, artistic quality and, occasionally, stability of the sandcastle structure. Under these conditions, it may not always be the most artistically talented competitor that wins, but instead the most creative. Many factors play a part in the determination of who deserves a prize for their sand sculpture and skill level is only one of them.
Belmar: Home of the NJ Sandcastle Contest
NJ Sandcastle Contest is the organization that puts together the sandcastle contests every year along the coast of NJ. One town, Belmar, has been hosting these contests for nearly 30 years. 2015 marked the 29th year of the NJ Sandcastle Contest in Belmar. As they do every year, the event coordinators went above and beyond all expectations.
Competitors of all ages, young and old, made their way to the beach, gathered the sand around them and transformed it into something spectacular. Everyone was out in the sand, having fun and making the most of the summer day and fun beach activity.
While eager participants sculpted away on the beach, spectators who walked along the town’s small boardwalk were given the opportunity to sample new items from two of the contest’s sponsors, Dunkin’ Donuts and Wendy’s. Additionally, the Belmar Tourism Commission, who was in charge of the successful run of the NJ Sandcastle Contest, organized to have World Jeep in Shrewsbury, NJ display their latest car models by the town’s bustling beach.
At the end of the contest, once every shovel and bucket was put down, judges awarded prizes to one competitor in each category. One lucky person 7 or under as well as one person in each of the 8 – 11, 12 – 15, and 16 and over categories were awarded prizes and given praise for their masterful creations. While everyone was not awarded a prize, the judges still made it a point to recognize the hard work and dedication of all who spent their day on the beach that day, July, 15, 2015.
Some people may wonder why Belmar was chosen as the destination for the annual NJ Sandcastle Contest year after year and for nearly three decades. It isn’t the first town many people think of when they hear “NJ beach town.” It doesn’t have a bustling boardwalk like Seaside Heights, nor casinos like Atlantic City.
Although there might not be an official reason for having the annual sandcastle contest in Belmar, that doesn’t mean its not a great place to host this summertime event! There are many reasons why Belmar, NJ is the perfect spot to build a sandcastle. Belmar is one of the smaller NJ resort towns. Hosting the contest here draws in large crowds, boosts the economy and sets the summer season off right.
Another possible reason for holding the NJ Sandcastle Contest in Belmar is that the boardwalk is small. With a rather small, quaint boardwalk lacking rides and roller coasters, Belmar, NJ is perfect for large events. There is plenty of room for sponsors, vendors and spectators to claim their spot, all eager to see the competitors work their magic. Although the boardwalk is small, there is still plenty of room for a large crowd and people are less likely to feel crammed together like sardines in an overstuffed can.
Other towns with sandcastle contests/festivals
While Belmar has been the primary location for sandcastle contests in NJ, other beach towns hold similar events. One Southern NJ town, Wildwood Crest, holds a sand sculpting festival on a seasonal/desire-based basis. This festival is typically for amateurs but is fun nonetheless because spectators can see various creative designs, enjoy live entertainment and play a variety of games. At the end of the day, prizes are typically awarded and all continue to have fun on the beach for the remainder of the day.
Cape May is another NJ beach town where you may be able to find a sand sculpting contest during the summer months. Since the town is well-known and widely visited between May and September, they typically host a family oriented contest where everyone works together to create a magnificent castle that will make people’s jaws drop in awe. Sometimes, if demand is high enough, the town of Cape May, NJ will hold more than one sand sculpting competition, allowing everyone who wants to participate to do so.
While everyone in NJ may be dreading the winter that is soon to arrive, it is important to remember that every frozen window, snow covered lawn and thoughts of hatred for the season brings us one step closer to the summer and Belmar’s annual sandcastle building contest.
Although Belmar is not the first town to come to mind for summer tourists visiting the NJ Shore, it is the best-known location of sandcastle contests. Many other towns, including Atlantic City, Point Pleasant, Seaside Heights and smaller beaches such as Avon by the Sea, Bradley Beach and Ocean Grove may also host sandcastle competitions throughout the summer.
Due to the popularity of these events, many towns attempt to host these friendly competitions annually. One problem with holding such an event, or events if the town holds more than one a year, is that the community, while fascinated by the idea, does not sign up to participate.
People are often eager to show off their talent and create an awesome sandcastle that many will remember, but without the initial spark of excitement, many beach towns think that such an event will not live up to the expectations of spectators. It is for this reason that, although largely discussed during the summer and attended by many, there are not sandcastle contests in every beach town up and down the NJ coast.
To get your mind off of the winter and geared up for your first trip down the Shore in a few months, check out the various boardwalks along the coast. Some of these NJ boardwalks are even open year-round so you can enjoy their indoor attractions right now!
Are these sandcastle contests one of your favorite things about the NJ summer? Share your thoughts, and maybe your eagerness for summer to come, with us!
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