OLD ORCHARD BEACH — Lobsters, popsicles and ice cream sundaes made of sand dotted the beach at Ocean Park on Thursday, all sculpted by families who re-created their favorite summer treats.

Wielding shovels, buckets and environmentally friendly dyes, 24 groups helped kick off the Fourth of July weekend with the 28th annual Ocean Park Association sand sculpting contest.

More than 60 families raced to make sand structures with the theme of “Summer Treats and Eats” before the high tide washed their designs away.

The rules were simple: Each team had to include at least one child; no mechanical devices or structural supports were allowed; and families had four hours to complete their designs.

The contest has become a tradition for many of the families who vacation at Ocean Park each summer, and the competition is fierce.

The first-place winners, the Curley, Hill and McNulty families, reclaimed their title from last year. It was their third time in the contest.

“The first year was rough,” said 14-year-old Lauren Curley from Stow, Massachusetts. “But last year we won first place, and hope to win it again.”

This year’s winning design was a bottle rocket, or “bomb” popsicle, known for its red, white and blue. The popsicle is a favorite among kids, especially around July 4.

With planks of wood, the families built flat-topped hills in the sand to represent the pops’ familiar indents. Using food coloring and baby power, they made the sand red, white and blue.

Lauren said the idea came up during a four-week, 14-person group text message. The families tried to top last year’s winning design – a shark eating a person, with ketchup sprayed as blood.

“At first we dissed the popsicle idea because we thought it was going to be too simple,” Lauren said. “But it’s been really hard so far.”

For their first-place finish, the families received a sand bucket filled with Ocean Park goodies, such as flip-flops and candies. They also will be recognized at the Fourth of July band concert.

The 24 sand sculptures were judged on artistic ability, originality, design detail, use of space and special effects.

The second- and third-place winners were a striped bass on a platter, and a banana split with a cherry on top, respectively. Other sculptures included lobsters, strawberry shortcakes and Ferris wheels.

Colleen Murphy of Orleans, Massachusetts, whose family of 11 sculpted the Ferris wheel, has been vacationing at Ocean Park for 34 years. This was her family’s sixth year in the sculpting competition.

“It’s always fun and the kids usually do most of the work themselves,” said Murphy.

The Murphy family’s Ferris wheel included seats for each child to sit in as they held their favorite summer treat.

“A treat of the summer is coming to the beach,” Murphy said. “Ferris wheels are part of that fun.”

The contest brought together three generations of the Michaud family, from Caribou.

The Michauds sculpted a lobster eating an ice cream cone – a design that the family matriarch, Pam Michaud, said is quintessentially Maine.

“We sat around last night and everyone offered their ideas and then we took a vote,” Michaud said. “People come to Maine for the lobster, and Ocean Park is known for its ice cream, so we thought it was perfect.”

The lobster, colored red with Jell-O powder, was bordered with pink watermelons, adding to the summer treats motif.

“We had a brutal winter,” Michaud said, “so it’s great to come here and enjoy the summer.”