Grainy structures could be sea treasures

Eleven years ago Jerry Langford was visiting Corona del Mar State Beach with his family when they found inspiration.

Their muse wasn't in the sunset, the waves or ocean breeze. It was in the sand — or more to the point, in the shape of the sand.

The Lake Forest family was checking out the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce's annual sand castle contest, and Langford said the family decided they would participate the next year.

Ten years later, the Langfords are still participating. The kids have grown up. One is married, another is in high school, but they all still participate and add to their wall decorated with the trophies, plaques and pictures from a decade of creating together in the sand.

"The whole point of it was to have fun and create memories," Langford said. "The most important thing to us is we want our kids to look back fondly and know as a family we did something together and created great memories. That we instilled in them a desire to compete with their own families."

The contest celebrates its 49th year Sunday. This year's theme, "Treasures of the Sea," will see piles of sand transformed into all things ocean, with sculptures expected to run the gamut from treasure chests to octopi.

There are categories for master builders from architecture firms, businesses, families and youth and civic groups and clubs. The Langfords participate in the family category and typically place in the top three, Langford said.

Participants can win awards from the best sand castle to the most humorous. Winners receive two free round-trip passes to Catalina Island. The chamber's Commodores Club members will judge the creations.

"The last 5 to 10 minutes of the event is the most exciting," he said. "The teams are scrambling before the cannon fires. Sometimes you'll see major castles collapse in that last five minutes. And just having it done, breathe a sigh of relief, knowing we can't do anything more to it. Even if we'd like to touch it up."

If You Go

What: 49th annual sand castle contest

Where: Corona del Mar State Beach

When: Building is 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. with the castles there until 4:30 p.m. Oct. 3

Cost: Free for the public. To participate: $60 for masters, $40 for businesses, $30 for families and groups or clubs

Information: E-mail: or go to

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