Hundreds man ramparts as castles rise on Westport beach

Though it was years in the planning, the new Westport Weston Family Y was built in an afternoon. Unfortunately, it may not survive the next high tide.

Erected in sand, a reproduction of the new Y at Mahackeno was one of 43 structures that came to life during the 10th annual "Castles in the Sand" build-a-thon at Compo Beach on Saturday.

Large sand lots were purchased for $100 while extra-large lots went for $300, with all the money donated to Homes with Hope, a Westport-based non-profit that helps the hungry and homeless or those at risk of being homeless. Hundreds of people turned out for the event, to build, browse, get their face painted, enjoy a gymnastics demo or purchase a Live Strong bracelet or t-shirt. Visitors could also vote on their favorite sand castle.

The event raised about $13,000 for Homes with Hope, agency officials said.

To answer your questions, We think we will make about $13,000 on the event.

"That is a very good fundraiser for us, but this event is about more than the fundraising," Jeff Wieser, the president and CEO of Homes with Hope, said in a statement Monday. "Castles in the Sand, for ten years, has been a great opportunity for us to raise the awareness of our organization in the community. Using the castles theme, we are able to make many folks in the community aware of our activities, and get them to recognize that there are more than 60 people every night who would not have a bed to sleep in were it not for our programs.

"It is hard to imagine that there is homelessness in a community like Westport, but there is homelessness in every community; we are unusual in that we recognize it and have done something about it for the past 26 years," Wieser said.

"Our sandcastle is a representation of the proposed Westport Weston Family Y that we will build at Mahackeno to continue to fulfill our mission as a center of community life and continue helping civic partners like Homes with Hope," said Scott Smith, the Y's communications director. "All of us are building what matters today and that's not just sand castles, but community spirit and engagement and fostering sense of social responsibility in a fun way."

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WINNERS IN THE 10th ANNUAL CASTLES IN THE SAND COMPETITION WERE: Judges Choice: Compo Conquerors, Flug family -- "Sand Castle Beach," a miniature re-creation of Castles in the Sand itself. Best Corporate Lots: David Adam Realty WWBs -- "Pandora's Bracelet," a huge charm bracelet. Most Creative: Lila Epstein -- "Crime Scene." Most Ambitious: Westport Weston Family Y -- Replica of the new proposed Y at Mahackeno. Best Big Lot: Tuscan Raiders -- "I love New York," alligator crawling out of the sewer. Best Really Big Lot: Epstein family -- "Pirates of the Caribbean." Special Award by Peter Cadoux: Halsted Realty -- huge "Beachfront Property." Special Award by Miggs Burroughs: Monkey Crew, the Sherman Family -- "Too Many Bananas." Special Award by Leonard Everett Fisher: Myers family -- "Owl." People's Choice Award: Team Emma, Rodriguez family

Herve Hamon, a member of the Y's building committee and a previous board member, added, "What we tried to do here is build a replica of architect Robert A.M. Stern's design. The proposed facility will be just about 100,000 square feet and will include a large pool, two gyms, a fitness area, childcare and children's pool with slides for family time. In general, the building will be very eco-friendly with green features and elements."

Smith provided an update on the status of the project. "We have all the approvals we need and have raised more than half of the money we need to build, through fundraising and the agreement to sell the current building," he said. "Just in the last few weeks, the building committee has gathered momentum in terms of starting the final phase. If all goes as planned, we would break ground in 2012 and complete the building in 2014."

Smith said it's been a long process but that the Y has overwhelming support from the community to finish the project. "People have been coming by our sand installation and saying, `We can't wait,' and `Wow, that's what it's going to look like,'" he said.

Admiring the Y sculpture, Westport resident Betty Tsang, a current Y member, said, "We would have loved to have kept the Y downtown, but that battle has passed. We're excited for the new. We've been in and out of the various discussions. My son Tyler also did a project in school about the relocation, when it was still not quite happening. He was in fifth grade at the time and is now in eighth. It's been some time coming. After a while, you just hope it happens. And now it is happening."

Bruce Hennemuth, on the board for Homes with Hope, eyeballed the Y sculpture as well. "Every year we do the sand castle effort," he said. "It's a fun day and gives us the opportunity to advertise our mission to help the homeless in the area. The Y representation is wonderful. What a great effort by the supporters of the Y."

He wasn't the only one to think so. The Y sculpture received a golden shovel award for "Most Ambitious" structure in the competition.

WINNERS IN THE 10th ANNUAL CASTLES IN THE SAND COMPETITION WERE:

Best Corporate Lots: David Adam Realty WWBs -- "Pandora's Bracelet," a huge charm bracelet.

Most Creative: Lila Epstein -- "Crime Scene."

Most Ambitious: Westport Weston Family Y -- Replica of the new proposed Y at Mahackeno.

Best Big Lot: Tuscan Raiders -- "I love New York," alligator crawling out of the sewer.

Best Really Big Lot: Epstein family -- "Pirates of the Caribbean."

Special Award by Peter Cadoux: Halsted Realty -- huge "Beachfront Property."

Special Award by Miggs Burroughs: Monkey Crew, the Sherman Family -- "Too Many Bananas."

Special Award by Leonard Everett Fisher: Myers family -- "Owl."

People's Choice Award: Team Emma, Rodriguez family