BELMAR, NJ — What do you get when you combine Belmar’s 31st Annual Sandcastle Contest with one of the warmest days of the summer? A jam-packed 18th Avenue beach, where everyone was enjoying the day their way – whether it was relaxing in the sun, splashing in the ocean or building sand creations for the annual event.

As a bonus, a DJ provided the live entertainment and handed out sombreros, compliments of the contest’s main sponsor, appropriately named, D’Jais Bar and Grill.

It all started early in the day when hundreds of contest participants laid claim to their small portions of the beach to create their sand sculptures — many cordoning off their area with stakes and yellow emergency tape. When the usual beachgoers began to arrive a bit later, it was a challenge for them to find spots to place their beach belongings among the growing sandscape of animals, sea creatures, cartoon characters and even a mini-Wrestlemania show — a creation of the members of the New Jersey Youth Challenge Academy stationed at Fort Dix.

Sign Up for E-News

But all in all, most everyone said they were glad to be at the beach, where temperatures were a bit cooler than farther inland.

“It’s nice to see people return year after year to the contest,” said Mary Brabazon, Belmar’s tourism director. “They make it part of their summer.”

When the sandcastle contest started more than 30 years ago, it had another major sponsor — a role that Frank Sementa of D’Jais assumed more than 20 years ago. “He is the reason why the contest has been around for so long,” Brabazon said, “And why it has been so successful.”