State park to celebrate 50th anniversary and Sandcastle Contest

Coastal Point • Submitted: These campers pitched tents at the old Key Box campground.Coastal Point • Submitted: These campers pitched tents at the old Key Box campground.Delaware Seashore State Park is inviting visitors and local residents of all ages and skill levels to participate in the 37th Annual Sandcastle Contest at the South Inlet Day Area on Saturday, July 8.

In honor of the state park’s 50th anniversary and another year of sculpting sand creations, the contest will enable participants to celebrate traditions while reminiscing on past memories formed at the park.

To partake in the beach activity, sandcastle building competitors can register at the South Inlet Day Area on the day of the event, beginning at 9:30 a.m. They can register in either the 12-or-younger category or the open-class category for all ages.

Once participants have registered, they will then embark on their quest of designing and sculpting their sandcastles, with whatever tools and sand toys they bring, until judging begins at 1 p.m. Officials with Delaware Seashore State Park will evaluate the creations what is expected to be a couple hundred participants and give out prizes, such as $100 gift cards from local restaurants, home furnishings and sunglasses.

Laura Scharle, interpretive programs manager for Delaware Seashore State Park and one of the organizers of the event, said a large component of planning for the event has involved contacting local businesses to donate items as prizes.

“It’s a really great family-friendly event,” Scharle said. “It’s free to enter, and almost everybody gets a prize.”

After 10 years of judging the competition firsthand, Department Superintendent Doug Long said admiring the imaginations of each adult and child, and speaking to them about their final products as a judge, has given him a new perspective on the event.

“It’s fabulous,” Long said. “You see a little bit of everything. Sandcastles are built by kids of all ages and even adults. It’s been a lot of fun.”

The annual sandcastle-building event has become a tradition, and event organizers said guests and residents often schedule their vacations to align with the date of the contest.

“It’s really cool to see people come year after year for some old-fashioned family fun at the beach,” Scharle said.

This year’s event is not solely limited to building sandcastles and competing for prices, however. Since Delaware Seashore State Park was created 50 years ago, the Sandcastle Contest will also celebrate the park’s history and the fun and natural beauty it has provided to its visitors throughout the years.

Other beach-themed, hands-on activities will supplement the sandcastle building. To inform residents and visitors about Delaware Seashore State Park and familiarize them with the park’s grounds, this year’s event will also feature a scavenger hunt.

“One activity is going to be a scavenger hunt, to get people involved and walking around the beach, noting things that they maybe wouldn’t normally pay attention to,” Scharle said.

Besides the fun and games, park workers and event organizers will display a park history exhibit in honor of the Delaware Seashore State Park’s 50 years. A main attraction of the demonstration is the Delaware Seashore State Park Family Scrapbook. Scharle has been collecting photographs of state park visitors’ trips from over the last 50 years and will present the pictures as a part of the display.

“It’s really cool to see the old vintage pictures of people in their old bathing suits in the 1950s,” Scharle said. “It’s really cool to see how things have changed over the years in the park.”

In the exhibit, community members and visitors can also examine newspaper articles from when the park was first established, old aerial photos of the park and pictures of the different inland bridges.

“It’s a pretty detailed timeline of how the park came to be,” Scharle said.

In addition to the special activities and a tribute to the park’s past, the sandcastle event will also include a lifesaving demonstration that the state park beach patrol will perform while professional sand sculptors construct their own sandcastle creation.

With the combination of two important celebrations for Delaware Seashore State Park, Sandcastle Contest organizers and state park workers said they are hoping for a large turnout of individuals who will spend time with family and friends, admire the state park and enjoy the beach activity.

“It’s just one of those events that is just so simple,” Long said. “It’s just so ‘the beach’ that everybody understands it. Anyone can participate with an imagination. Just being outside, smelling the salt air and being by the ocean — you can’t beat it. It’s just a great event.”