Overcast skies and the threat of rain weren't enough to dampen the spirits of many aspiring sculptors Saturday, as attested by the 20 or so sand creations dotting the beach at Great Salt Lake State Park.

Like their creations, the sand artists came in all shapes and sizes. Some of the projects were group efforts; others represented a single artistic endeavor.Assistant Park Superintendent John Ibach had hoped to attract 40 participants to the third annual Great Salt Lake State Park Sand Castle and Sculpture Contest at the park, 16 miles west of Salt Lake City.

"We had a lot of calls early in the week, but I guess the weather was a factor today," Ibach said. This year's participation was on par with last year's effort, when 22 groups braved similar weather conditions and a chance for cash prizes, gift certificates and trophies.

For Richard Dixon, the third year proved to be the charm as he captured first place in the sand sculpting category. His winning effort, "Floating in the Great Salt Lake," featured a replica of a woman with sunglasses afloat on the salty lake.

Dixon was assisted by his wife, Laura, her two sisters, Venus and Mindy, and her brother, Jake. In the first contest in 1989, Dixon crafted an airplane large enough to include a real-life pilot. Last year's effort was a sand castle.

"It was really awful," Dixon laughed. "We stay away from them and leave them to the professionals."

Like Dixon, many of the other participants were regulars out for a day of artistic fun. And if they won, so much the better.

"It's just something fun to do," said Dixon, a draftsman for a local medical production company.

Other winners Saturday included Jeremy Thompson and Gary Weiser, first and second respectively in the sand castle category; Donna Thompson and Clyde Bird, first and second in the theme category; and David Lemon, who captured the high school category. Cindy Fletcher finished second to Dixon in the sculpting category.

There was no lack of imagination on the beach. Fletcher's effort was a 4-foot-high wizard, complete with cone-shaped hat. Donna Thompson's winner featured a covered wagon pulled by a team of oxen with a pioneer sitting in the driver's seat. Bird's creation was a replica of a jeep.

Other sand creations included a couple riding in a boat in the tunnel of love, a man relaxing on the beach with a can of pop in one hand and full ice chest nearby, a replica of the main Saltaire building and sand castles ranging from the typical small Camelot version to massive mountain fortresses.

Contest sponsors included the Utah Division of Parks and Rec-reation; Salt Lake County Parks and Recreation; Coca Cola Bottling Co. of Salt Lake; Gart Brothers Sporting Goods; Kennecott Corp.; and KCPX-FM radio.