When we were young, we played with sand pales and shovels at the shore’s edge, piling one scoop onto another, creating in our hearts world-class castles that boggled the mind. While our parents told us these were masterpieces, we knew we left a great deal to the imagination. As the largest sand sculpting event in The Sunshine State turns 30, however, the only thing left to the imagination is that the sky is the limit!
The 30th annual American Sand Sculpting Championship returns to Fort Myers Beach from Friday, November 18, to Sunday, November 27 at the Wyndham Garden Hotel at 6890 Estero Boulevard. Sand sculptors ply their craft and showcase their artistry in what USA Today and CNN Travel describe as a Must See Event and one of the 10 best sand sculpting competitions in the world.
Feature sculptors compete in Singles the first week, followed by Doubles the next. They represent 5 nations and 12 states and collectively hold over 400 competition medals and many world championships, with 40 from this competition alone. There will be 16 Solo Sculptors and five teams of Double Masters.
2016 Solo Master competitors are Melineige Beauregard of Canada, Delyane Corbett from Canada, Bill Dow from Montana, Maxim Gazendam of The Netherlands, Greg Grady jr. from New Hampshire, Paul Hoggard from England, Remy Hoggard from Bulgaria, Joris Kivits of The Netherlands/Portugal, Walter McDonald from Texas, Craig Mutch from Canada, Todd Pangborn from New York, Bruce Phillips from California, Walter Stijger of The Netherlands, Steve Topazio from Rhode Island, Brian Turnbough from Illinois, and Abe Waterman of Canada.
2016 Doubles Masters are Beauregard & Kivits, Corbett & Mutch, Dow & McDonald, Gazendam & Phillips, and the Hoggards.
The Best of The Best
“We brought back as many previous medal holders as possible,” says Bill Knight, co-chair with his wife and business partner Marianne. “13 of the 16 solo competitors are previous medal winners, and that is so outstanding. This is Invitation Only, meaning we have the best of the best! You need a minimum 10 years’ experience to qualify, but most of the artists have 20 to 30 or more. It is literally one of the finest sand sculpting competitions in the world.”
Bill says that for the past 15 years it hosted the Advance Amateur Florida State Championships, “but in honor of our anniversary we are taking this to the next level by introducing a new event: the Advanced Amateur National Championship on Saturday, November 19, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. This is a mixed team/solo event for beginning or advanced amateurs by Invitation Only that is open at all except those at the Masters and Professional levels. Overall these amateurs already hold an impressive 44 medals.”
An Advanced Amateur is someone who placed 1st, 2nd, or 3rd in other sculpting contests but is not a Professional. Amateurs uses only 1 to 3 tons of sand with 3 to 6 hours of sculpting time, while professionals have 2 to 3 days, with about 9 tons of sand and roughly 20 hours of sculpting.
Advanced Amateur National Championship competitors are Dale Andrews of Canada; Manda Bolduc from Maine; Joaquin Cortez from Texas; Alan Eakle of Ohio; Lisa Fewless from Michigan; Albert Lucio, sr., and Albert Lucio, jr., from Texas; Bruce Peck of Bradenton, Florida; Paul Warren from Massachusetts; and Wade Wheeler of Okeechobee, Florida.
The Coolest Feeling
Another first-time attraction for the 30th anniversary is the VIP Pavilion Experience that includes an air conditioned area and beer garden with private restrooms. The Seminole Casino Hotel Paradise Pavilion offers an open bar, all you can eat menu and televisions showcasing the day’s sporting and holiday events. There are a limited daily tickets to the VIP Pavilion at $40 per day and available online at www.bigcevents.com/events.
Guests are welcome at the Sand Sculpting Competition daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. In addition to the talented sculptors, there will be many interactive activities, such as quick speed sand sculpting, sculpture photography opportunities, Kid’s Zone, sand sculpting demonstrations and lessons, and the Sand Vendor Village with over 50 exhibitors.
“Each year the event gets better,” says Bud Nocera, president of the Greater Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce. “It’s hard to believe the Sand Sculpting Championship is 30 years old – I remember when it was just a few sculptors on the beach; now it is one of the premier contests anywhere and brings people from around the world to Fort Myers Beach. It is always different, so bring the family and come out to enjoy it.”
Admission is $7, with kids 4 & under free. See http://www.FMBSandSculpting.com or its Facebook page at http://facebook.com/SandSculptingFestival. Arrive from the south if possible to avoid traffic and construction at the north part of the island, with a revolving bus system to transport guests from the Lover’s Key parking area to the competition.
The Greater Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce coordinates all vendors and volunteers. For details contact Ted Clifton at 239-848-6568 or email@example.com. To volunteer reach Rhonda Murray at 239-454-7500 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bill, a master sand sculptor in his own right, stumbled upon the event with Marianne in 2002 and volunteered, then the next thing they knew they ended up being co-chairs for the last 5 years. He says the best part of the Sand Sculpting Championship is that “you walk out there and see these artists and their magnificent creations, then when they are done, the beach goes back exactly the way it was. When you walk Fort Myers Beach, you literally walk on hundreds of previous sand sculptures created over the decades. That is the coolest feeling and makes our beach one of the best in the world!”
To experience this cool feeling yourself, attend the 30th annual American Sand Sculpting Championship on Fort Myers Beach at the Wyndham Garden Hotel from Friday, November 18, to Sunday, November 27 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.