Dozens of people got down and dirty Saturday afternoon in the name of a good cause.

The 13th annual Castles in the Sand sandcastle contest took place at Compo Beach, benefiting Homes with Hope, the Westport agency that works to end local homelessness and hunger. Around 40 groups and individuals used creativity -- and hard work -- to compete for a golden shovel award while raising money and awareness for the local nonprofit.

"We're trying," said Marc Porosoff of Westport, who worked diligently in the sand to help construct a Roman coliseum for his daughter's preschool.

A range of charities and civic groups was represented, with the sand sculptures running the gamut from well-known characters like Horton the Elephant and Audrey II from "Little Shop of Horrors" to iconic images like Noah's Ark and landmarks like the historic Kemper-Gunn House in downtown Westport.

"It's wonderful to see how creative everyone can be," said local artist Miggs Burroughs, who was one of the sculpture judges. "Sand is such a fluid medium."

"In a day or two it'll all be gone ... but I think that adds to the beauty of their efforts," he said.

Gault Inc. contributed 90 tons of sand, according to Jeff Wieser, president of Homes with Hope. "It is sushi-grade sand," he said.

"All week I've been sweating out the weather," he said, as the sun shone long enough during Saturday's changeable weather for the judging to be completed.

"This year the quality's really good," said Audrey Sparre, vice president of Homes with Hope.

Wieser attributed it to the large number of people who returned from last year. "There are a lot of people coming back and when people come back, they tend to be really enthusiastic," he said.

"We do it every year," said Grace Olsen of Westport, who with friend Margot Bruce of Westport, brought some new friends from Massachusetts to help. "I've been doing it since I was 11."

"At Christmas time we build a gingerbread house," said Bruce. "In the summer we build a sandcastle."

"It's really fun," said Eliza Barr, 10, of Westport. "We've done it for so many years and it's so much fun to see everyone's creation ... Everyone's always coming up with a different idea."

Among the more unique entries this year was "Society's Demise," which featured Jocelyn Paymer, 12, of Trumbull, buried in the sand before a headstone holding her cell phone.

"People are always on their phones so much," she said, hoping to impress the judges with their statement.

"It's fun," said Amelia Brace, 10, of Trumbull, who helped with sculpture. "And most of us just don't care if we win."

"It's really cool to have everyone express their talent," said Caroline Gray, 14, of Westport, who helped build a Staples High School water polo sculpture.

"I think that it's really amazing," Brynn Fleisig, 7, of Westport said of the fundraising event. "I think it's good that it's kind of a whole town project, and I'm really excited."