Mermaids, turtles, giant lobsters and alligators invaded the sandy shores of Fairfield on Saturday, but families lounging on Penfield Beach didn't seem at all concerned.

In fact, these creatures unleashed a wave of smiles as bright as the clear blue skies.

The fantastical figures were created for the Fairfield Police Athletic League's 15th annual Sand Sculpture Contest. Open to ages 18 and under, the contest drew more than two dozen participants, who fashioned their entries beach sand as Long Island Sound waters retreated at low tide.

For many families, the sand sculpture contest has become an annual tradition. "This is the fifth year we are participating," said Laura Ault of Southport. "We have won every year, in one category or another. We are hoping for our sixth win. We usually do this as a collaboration with family and friends."

The Pabons of Bridgeport, Davilas of Fairfield and Monteros of Fairfield collaborated on a sculpture as well, recreating a historic Ecuadorian site called Yagorcocha, or Blood Lake. "The Incas had a fight between tribes and many were killed," said Ponciano Davila, one of the sand sculptors. "All the blood went in the lake."

Sixteen-year-old Isabella Roca of Port Chester, N.Y., was collaborating with relatives Natasha and Rachel on a creation she called "Danno the Chinese Water Dragon." The sculpture, she explained, "is based on my real pet Chinese water dragon, who lives with me at home. Danno is very people friendly. He likes to eat minnows and worms and he's a YouTube star. You can check him out at `Danno's Breakfast.' "

Fourteen-year-old Emma Roca's construction, "Take A Bite Out of Cancer," took on a more somber character. "This is for all the cancer survivors and their battles," she said. "It is specifically dedicated to my aunt and my cousin Mikaela's mom, both of whom are battling cancer."

Entrants were free to pursue any design they wanted and awards were presented by Fairfield PAL in four categories: Most Artistic, Most Realistic, Most Original and Best Castle. In each category, there was a first-, second- and third-place award. First place was awarded six movie tickets, second place four and third place two. The movie tickets are purchased from the theaters by PAL, and all entrants also received a mesh bag containing sand toys.

For more information about the Fairfield Police Athletic League and its other programs -- including an Aug. 25 snapper blue fish tourney -- check, www.fairfieldpal.com