Hundreds gather at Walnut Beach Sand Sculpture Contest in Milford

Michael McCarvill and teammates Gary Gianotti and Warren Maude created award winner “Sealed With A Kiss."

Michael McCarvill and teammates Gary Gianotti and Warren Maude created award winner “Sealed With A Kiss."

Hundreds of participants and onlookers gathered beneath sunny skies on Walnut Beach Saturday, July 21, as nearly 50 talented groups of artists participated in the highly competitive 41st Sand Sculpture Contest.

Sponsored by the Milford Arts Council, this popular and high spirited event, held from 10 a.m. to p.m., boasted stiff competition as one of a kind, very large sculptures were created during low tide.

“For over 40 years, theCouncil has brought people of all ages together for this day of community and creativity,” said Paige Miglio, Council executive director. “We think there’s nothing better than connecting people through the arts. They come from New Jersey to Maine every year and it’s really become a destination event for Milford. Milford’s 17 miles of shoreline is beautiful and not to be missed. As we prepare for a huge launch of our new look, new season, and new ways to connect to community, we are so happy to have engaged with so many new friends at this event - especially as we are just a few years away from our 50th anniversary in 2021.”

“This is the 41st annual Sand Sculpture Competition that the Milford Arts Council has put on,” said Richard Stephen, the Council’s business manager. “The competition brings families, friends and individuals from all over Milford and from all over New England. We have 44 teams today; we have a very windy day. People come from all over to compete and people come from all over to see it - spectator wise. We have more than 400 spectators here today.”

Judges were looking for “originality, creativity and technical abilities. We have five categories so we’ll have a winner in each of those: Friends and Clubs, Family, 16 years old and up, 10-16 years old and 9 years old and up. Plus also - Best in Show and People’s Choice Awards,” said Stephen. A first, second and third place winner was awarded in each of the five categories.

Spectators brought picnic baskets and watched the sand bar transform into an outdoor art gallery. “We live in Milford and love this event,” said participant Melissa Bonanno, creator of the Batter Up Milford sculpture. “We came down to celebrate this day in Milford. We wanted to do something for Milford and this year the little leagues combined into one league, so we are doing a baseball theme. On the front of our baseball is the new Milford little league symbol. We wanted to do something that we’re proud of in Milford.” This team (Bonanno’s, Gome’s, Glynn’s, Alves’ families) won third place in the Friends/Clubs Category.

Captain Michael McCarvill created “Sealed With a Kiss,” “to recognize that the seal population here in the Long Island Sound is coming back. I make my sculptures just to make everyone happy when they see them,” he said.

McCarvill and teammates Gary Gianotti and Warren Maude have competed many times. “Mike has won Best in Show at least seven or eight years, we are all here competing with all our families and kids, we’re very proud of Mike - he’s a great artist and we found out that there are people here from Maine, Virginia, New York - it’s awesome,” said Gianotti. “The Fine Arts Council has done a wonderful job of bringing the community together and the work the cities doing is great.”

Registration is free and is open to all competitors each year, as hundreds browse in awe, stepping over rakes, shovels and pails awaiting the exciting finished masterpieces and judge awarded winners, each of whom takes home an impressive gold trophy. Two professional artists were the event judges.

First place award winners included: Kai and Annalise - Scooby’s Mansion (9 & under), Jourdan - Octopus (10-15), Bridgit Connors - Grateful Death (16 & over), Jacqui and Lindsey - Cat-a-Way (friends/clubs), and the McPherson and Sidell families - Godzilla Smash (Families). Best in Show went once again to Mike McCarvill and Team - Sealed with a Kiss, as did the People’s Choice Award.

“The MAC thanks all who participated and all our wonderful volunteers who made it a success,” said Stephen.