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Belmar’s 18th Avenue Beach Turns into Sandscape of Critters, Creatures, Cartoons … and Lots of Fidget Spinners

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Marcus Cowen, kneeling on left, leads a team from the New Jersey Youth Challenge Academy stationed at Fort Dix, which created a mini-Wrestlemania show during the Belmar Sandcastle Contest. Credits: Cathy Goetz
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Rocky Tolla of Florida and granddaughter Dana Angotta of Brooklyn, winners in last year’s Belmar Sandcastle Contest , try for two years in a row with their lazy lion enjoying a day in the sun. Credits: Cathy Goetz
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“It’s amazing what a little green food coloring and water can do,” said Matt Kataryniak of Old Bridge with his colorful alligator during the Belmar Sandcastle Contest. Credits: Cathy Goetz
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This group of seventh-graders from the Ocean Township Intermediate School added props to their “coach potato,” which took first-place in the 12-15 age category in the Belmar Sandcastle Contest. Credits: Cathy Goetz
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These fifth- through eighth-graders from Brookside School in Sea Girt created a larger-than-life fidget spinner for the camps and recreation category of the Belmar Sandcastle Contest. Credits: Cathy Goetz
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As their entry into the Belmar Sandcastle Contest, Brookside School’s third- and fourth-grade group sculpted “Poppy,” the main character in the “Trolls” movies. Credits: Cathy Goetz
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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.

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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.”

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