HANALEI — “Look, Mommy,” cried a small boy as he burst through the crowd at Hanalei Bay.
“Look,” he yelled again, glancing back for his mom.
His mother caught up and stood by his side.
“It’s a dragon,” he said, beaming.
Indeed, it was a dragon, circling around on the beach on a Saturday afternoon. Its head rested, its eyes watched, its scales rose high. It was one of the most popular attractions at the annual Hawaii Sand Festival and Sand Castle Sculpture Contest that had more than 50 entries.
This particular dragon was created by the Kauai family of Derek and Amaya Green and their children, son Devon and daughter Eden.
“We’ve been wanting to do this for years,” Derek said as he sat in the shade under a canopy, resting a sprained ankle.
So they collected tools from their garage, camped out in Hanalei, and come Saturday morning, went to work on that dragon. Their equipment included shovels, rakes, putty knives and water bottles for what turned out to be a five-hour project. Spectators watched, took pictures and praised their efforts.
“I’m pretty impressed with it,” Derek said. “When it comes down to it, the family thrown together with very little planning or organization, we just worked together.”
The toughest part, he said, was understanding the sand, how to keep it wet and which parts to work on.
“If you don’t do it right with each layer at a time, you’ll think you’re finished and it just falls apart on you,” he said.
Contest creations included mermaids, starfish, turtles, pigs, dolphins, cars and, of course, sand castles.
Jeff Peterson, an organizer, said the entries continue to get bigger, better and more detailed. People from Oahu, the Mainland and throughout Kauai entered for the chance to win prizes and gift certificates donated by local businesses.
Keith Duffy of Kickass Concrete on Kauai was back with pals Lee Hayden, Josh Huntoon and Nick Rorie, determined to defend their title after winning last year.
They ran into trouble when their original sculpture of Maui didn’t quite hold together.
Their improvised creation featured octopus, turtles, a dolphin, a hammerhead shark and a stingray. It was coming together nicely, with details left to complete, by Saturday afternoon.
The hardest part wasn’t getting the sand to stay true to form, having the right tools or even being patient.
“Not enough beer,” Duffy said, laughing.
Their experience as concrete workers boosted their confidence, though they were worried about the Green family’s dragon.
“Looking at these guys right next to us, they win,” Duffy said.
Just down the beach, Lorie Gordon of Vancouver, Washington, was putting the finishing touches on her sculpture of a heart that read, “Kauai 2017” and a dolphin at the base, with waves crashing around both.
It was on her bucket list to enter the contest, Gordon said.
“I’ve wanted to do this competition for years,” she said. “My husband bought me a plane ticket and here I am.”
Gordon is a veteran sculptor and has coordinated sand castle contests on the Mainland. She paid attention to the texture of the waves and packed it carefully to be sure the heart held firm.
She got an early start, as allowed by the rules, and used forms for part of the construction before removing them later.
“I’m not familiar with the sand, so I didn’t know how far I could push it,” she said.
At the other end of the beach, a large pig on its side was coming to life, courtesy of Kauai friends Jaxon Capelli, Alex Perozo, Erin Wells, Jackson Moffat, Reyn Wells and Thomas Capelli and Duke Tobin.
“We were going to do a monk seal …” Erin started to say.
“Then we changed to a pig,” Perozo added.
The families have done well in this contest, winning and placing second in previous years.
“We won with a doubled-headed dragon,” Erin said proudly.
It’s important to get the proportions right, which isn’t easy with lots of people working on different parts, she said.
“It takes a lot of people to work closely together …” Erin started.
“Communication,” Alex added.
After a rough start and deciding who should be doing what, they settled in and had a crowd-pleaser on their hands.
“We finally just got used to being with each other,” Erin said.
Sculptures aside, Derek said spending time with his family on a picture perfect, sunny Saturday at Hanalei Bay was the best way to spend a day.
“That’s more important than any of this,” he said.