The competition was the Perrysburg Recreation Department's annual sand castle building contest, and it provided a welcome diversion to a number of Perrysburg children hoping to make the best of the last few weeks of summer and put off thoughts of the imminent school year for as long as possible.
Seemingly unaware of how many miles they live from naturally occurring sandy beaches, Jake Eckel, Adam Studer, and Malek Atassi, all 10 years old and native to Perrysburg, were as close to professional sand castle builders as one would imagine youths from northwest Ohio could be.
“The first thing you have to do is build a moat, and then you use the sand you took out of the moat to build your castle,” Jake said, sharing one of his most carefully guarded secrets.
“It's got to be big. Just huge,” Adam added.
During the early stages of the competition, the three boys had excavated a deep trench that enclosed a large, dome-shaped mount of sand flanked by several rectangular turrets.
They worked leisurely, stopping occasionally to ponder their next move or to discuss the newest Star Wars video game. Their calm pace was further encouraged by the pond's mercifully calm surf that day, rendering any fears of their castle being washed away by a wave practically inconsequential.
A few feet away, Malek's brother Ammar, 7, and sister Deena, 4, got a little help from their mother, Angela Atassi, with their castle. Mrs. Atassi worked on a moat while Ammar and Deena packed sand and rocks into plastic buckets.
The younger Atassis had high hopes of beating their older brother and his friends, but Malek found that scenario unlikely.
“We've been practicing for this all summer,” he said while gathering grass and weeds for the next phase of the castle's construction.
In the end, there were only winners - everyone who entered was awarded first place.
Parks Department Director Deb Buker said that the competition has been a summer mainstay in the city for more than 20 years. About a dozen children took part in the 1 11/2 -hour event. Attendance this year was light, compared to past years, recreation officials said.