The 94° temperature was nothing—nothing, that is, compared to the heat of competition at New Orleans' first McDonald's/ Play-Doh Invitational. Concocted by the city's Audubon zoo to help raise awareness of endangered species, the nine-hour doh-off featured representatives from seven local architectural firms and their play-clay sculptures of threatened or extinct animals.

Despite strong competition from a 10-foot redfish (set in a Play-Doh skillet with Play-Doh veggies) and a green 17-foot stegosaurus, Marilyn & Hurricane Manatee, a bewhiskered 10-foot aquatic mammal and her calf (above), won first prize fins down. After a preservative shellacking, the couple was quickly scheduled for display at the zoo's children's village. The 36,000 empty Play-Doh cans left behind (left) were even more quickly scheduled for a trip to the trash heap.

Losers among the 100 participating architects-turned-sculptors quickly dismissed notions that the unusual medium caused any artistic missteps. Sniffed Greg Decoursey, 32 (whose firm's 10-foot narwhale, alas, swam out of the money): "I've been familiar with Play-Doh since kindergarten."