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Shifting sands yield fantastic seaside creations

A bloodthirsty crocodile emerged from the beach in Coney Island, drawing a large crowd to the shore’s famous boardwalk. But it didn’t come alone. From the sandy scene also sprang a dinosaur, a race car and Jesus Christ.

The motley spectacle could only mean the annual Coney Island Sand Sculpting Contest and Unity Day Celebration and this year’s event is just around the corner.

On July 26 from noon to 5 p.m., the boardwalk between West 10th and West 12th streets will be host to an entire afternoon of free concerts, contests and community outreach for people of all ages. Though the sand sculptures are typically the day’s highlight.

“It’s always a lot of fun and it’s great to see people’s imagination and creativity in the sculpting contest,” said Judi Orlando, the executive director of Astella Development Corp., the event’s organizer. Astella is a local not-for-profit that focuses on community services and development.

In the sand sculpting contest, each participant is left only with his or her imagination, artistic talent and a big pile of sand. The challenge is $15 to reserve a space and cash prizes up to $400 are awarded to the best submissions in five categories: individual adult, individual child, group adult, group child and mixed.

Besides the ubiquitous castles, volcanoes and mermaids, a whole host of eclectic figures were created by Brooklynites as well as people from as far away as Germany and Holland. Last year, teams made Brooklyn Borough Hall, a crucified Jesus and Coney Island’s iconic Parachute Jump tower, among others.

The Unity Day Celebration also has an impressive lineup of live music and dancing including a jazz ensemble, some Russian gypsy singers, African dancers and local Latin musicians. Slated to perform are the Nyricans, Coney Island High Notes, the Russian Gypsies, Just the Two of Us, The Rob Shanta Dance Group, Simplicity, Beats and Blessings and the Dancing Angels.

There will also be clowns, games and face painting to round out an exciting Saturday afternoon at the beach.

But the primary focus of the evening will be to let people know what kinds of health, education and support services are offered in the area. The event is sponsored by over a dozen local businesses, elected officials and municipal agencies.

“It’s for the unity of the amusement area and the year round residents,” said Orlando, “to focus on health and activities in Coney Island like the day care centers, medical centers, the library, and things like that.”

“It’s just a good opportunity for people to come out, have a good time and see what’s available in their neighborhood.”

The 18th annual Sand Sculpting Contest and Unity Day Celebration is Saturday, July 26 from noon to 5 p.m. The festivities will take place on the boardwalk between West 10th and West 12th streets. The price of admission is free. For more information, call 718-266-4653.

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