BELMAR, NJ — The heat was definitely on along Belmar’s 18th Avenue beach on July 17 — not only in terms of the temperatures but for the hundreds of sandcastle contest participants who only had several hours to build their creations under the sweltering skies.

Interspersed among the throngs of beachgoers, sand sculptors of all ages laid claim to their portion of the sand for the 33rd Annual Belmar Sandcastle Contest. And they came ready for the challenge, carrying pails, shovels, spray bottles and other tools to create a sandscape of animals, sea creatures, cartoon characters and even classic sandcastles across an entire block of the beachfront.

Nearly 130 contestants competed in seven categories, with prizes awards to the top three in each category, based on creativity, resourcefulness, originality and types of accessories used.

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Capturing the “Best on the Beach” award for the third consecutive year were the Bikini Boys of Seaside Heights. Their “SpongeBob Riding a Sea Serpent” creation celebrated the 20th anniversary of the popular cartoon character hitting the airways.

Attracting much of the attention during the contest was its first-ever interactive entry, “Skeeball,” by Brian Quigley and Chris Cole of Verona and Cranford — first-place winner in the family category. They used sand, water and other tricks of the sand sculpture trade to create the arcade game, which handled tennis balls quite well through its tunneling system.

The annual event is presented by the Belmar Tourism Commission and D’Jais Bar and Grill in Belmar.

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