PORTER | An alligator showed up at the beach Saturday morning, but no one seemed a bit scared.
Folks walked by, smiled and took pictures of the beast.
Al, a 15-foot alligator, was one of the competitors in the 15th annual Sand Sculpture contest sponsored by Indiana Dunes State Park. This year’s theme — Critters Big and Small — had mermaids, tortoises and even a hippopotamus in the running for prizes and a People’s Choice award.
Rusty Allen and his sons Kyle, 7, and Conner, 6, started at 9 a.m. Saturday scraping, tracing and digging until Al the alligator emerged from the sand.
Kyle Allen said he had “played around” before with sand sculptures.
“But never for competition, no way,” Kyle said.
The Ulrich family traveled four hours from Sunman, Ind., to enter the contest. David Ulrich said his family has a history of creating attention-getting sand sculptures at Myrtle Beach, S.C.
The Ulriches placed second with their sculpture of Hubert, the 9-foot hippopotamus.
“The bulk of the work is digging,” said David Ulrich, who started creating Hubert with his family at 8:15 a.m. “That is the key … and you have to keep it wet.”
Although judges favored sculptures that adhered to the day’s theme, some teams chose to veer from the path.
Dan Pullins, of Valparaiso, and Matt Jessen and Tony Bianco, of Chesterton, were part of a seven-person team that chiseled a 4-foot-high pueblo sand village.
Pullins and Jessen said “mastermind” Bianco found a photo in a magazine, which they used as a model.
“We’re not sure what architectural period is involved,” Pullins said jokingly. “It’s an overview of the history of hill dwellings.”
After the judging, the Ulriches watched Hubert dry up and start to disintegrate.
“We’re bummed because he’s falling apart faster than it took us to build him,” Ulrich said. “But we had a lot of fun, and it was just as much fun to sit here and listen to people’s comments as they walked by.”
Although winners took home gift certificates and other prizes, most contestants seemed to just enjoy spending time with friends and family on the beach.
“We didn’t do it to win anything,” Bianco said. “We just wanted to make a sand castle.”