Get ready, Fort Myers Beach! The American Sand Sculpting Championships returns to our island next Friday, November 20th, with 16 Solo Master Sculptors and 10 Doubles Master Sculptors representing four countries and ten states coming to create ephemeral masterpieces out of our pristine white sand. The ten-day event has been ushering in the holiday season for 29 years now, and has evolved into one of the premier showcases for our little community – with the Sand Vendor Village, daily Quick Sand competitions, live music, sand sculpting demonstrations, ‘Sand Fans’ – your caricature carved in sand, Deceptionist Extraordinaire Albert Lucio, the Florida State Championships and much, much more.
“This year we’ve added an additional 40 tons of sand to help alleviate the low spots we’ve seen in past years when it rains,” said Greater Fort Myers Beach Area Chamber of Commerce President Bud Nocera, who is managing the event in partnership with Big C Events, Pinchers, the Wyndham Garden Hotel on Fort Myers Beach, The Sand Lovers and Suzanne Altamare, all of which have been involved in other successful sand sculpting events including the World Championships of Sand Sculpting. “We’ve also moved the site forward towards the Wyndham property to help keep it dry.”
While sand sculpting competitions are held all in many countries and all over the United States, ours is the largest in the state of Florida and has been named by USA Today and CNN Travel as one of the 10 best in the world.
“With 825 miles of beautiful beaches in the Sunshine State, it’s no wonder Florida is once again playing host to the American Sand Sculpting Championship,” said Will Seccombe, President & CEO of VISIT FLORIDA. “We’re pleased the event is returning to Fort Myers Beach and know that the area will provide a stunning backdrop for the talented sculptors and their fans visiting from around the world.”
To help those coming to our island for Sand Sculpting, Fort Myers Beach Mayor Anita Cereceda has asked those in charge of the Town’s waterline replacement project to keep two lanes of traffic open for nearly the entire run of the event – Saturday, November 21st to Sunday, November 29th – though Nocera still encourages people to arrive through the south end of the island to avoid any delay.
“We are encouraging off-island attendees to use the south entrance through Bonita Springs and park at Lover’s Key as that is the most convenient and least disruptive way of attending,” he said. “Event directors have coordinated a revolving bus system to transport attendees from the Lover’s Key parking area at 8700 Estero Boulevard to the site, which is just a short distance away.”
Everything kicks off on Friday, November 20th at 10am, which is Make-A-Wish Day with a portion of proceeds from gate admission going to Make-A-Wish Southern Florida who use the money to grant wishes to children with life threatening medical conditions. The Masters Solo Competition begins on opening day, as do the sand sculpting demonstrations and lessons (11am and 2pm), live music from Steve Hill and Nick Beauregard and the Master Sculptor Quick Sand competition (4:30pm) before closing at 5pm.
The fun continues from there, as the event grounds will be open every day from 10am-5pm, featuring different family-friendly events nearly every hour along with the Sand Vendor Village – with more than 50 vendors from around the country offering a great selection of food, beverages, specialty retail and arts and crafts.
The American Sand Sculpting Competition features three categories: Masters, Advanced Amateur and Amateur. Making one’s way to the top of the pack is no small feat, either – the Masters level is reserved for those artists who have many years of experience and is by invitation only. Even the Advanced Amateur level is hard to break into – to qualify, a sculptor must have placed 1st, 2nd or 3rd in amateur contests but cannot be a professional sand sculptor. It is also by invitation only. The biggest difference between the levels (besides experience) is sand and time: typically an amateur sculptor has about 1-3 tons of sand and only 3-6 hours sculpting time. An Advanced Amateur competition is held over 2-3 days; the sculptor has about 9 tons of sand with about 20 hours sculpting time.
Sixteen Master Sculptors will compete for the title, “American Solo Champion” beginning on opening day, Nov. 20th culminating in the Solo Awards on Sunday, Nov. 22nd at 4:30pm. Those sculptures will remain on display for the duration of the event. Together, these sculptors hold over 300 competition medals and many of them are World Champions.
The Doubles Division competition begins on Wednesday, November 25th as ten Master Sculptors compete in teams of two for the title, “American Doubles Champion.” The Doubles Awards ceremony will be held on the last day, Sunday, November 29th at 4:30pm.
The Advanced Amateur Florida State Championship (Advanced Amateur) begins on Friday, November 27th and ends on Sunday November 29th. Eleven advanced amateurs from eight states will test their sand sculpting skills.
The Amateur Competition begins on Saturday, November 21st and ends that same day with the awards ceremony at 4:45pm
Both Master and Advanced Amateurs will participate in the daily ‘Quick Sand Competition’. In this exciting and fast-paced event, two sculptors are on stage each with their own podium and five-pound bucket of sand. The sculptors are introduced, the audience picks a subject, and the artists are given ten minutes to create a completed sculpture. After the audience judges the completed works, one artist is eliminated. The winner moves on to the next round.
Returning for the 3rd year, and bigger and better will be the ‘Sand Shuffle’. The ‘Sand Shuffle’ brings the sand and artistry of Master Sculptors to businesses, attractions and destinations on the beach. Renowned Master Sculptor Melineige Beauregard will have her work featured at participating locations. The Sand Shuffle allows guests to visit, photograph and share the sculptures socially through their own social media outlets as well as the event’s Facebook and Instagram pages. Additionally guests will be able to pick up an event guide with a ‘SAND SHUFFLE’ Passport and get stamps at the locations where sculptures reside for a chance at great prizes.
Entry prices for the 2015 American Sand Sculpting Championships are just $5 at the gate or $4 in advance (children 4 and under are free) at fmbsandsculpting.com, where family packages, special 1 day Holiday Package and 3-day passes can also be ordered then picked up at the Chamber office in Key Estero Plaza. Day passes can also be purchased in advance at Pincher’s, Texas Tony’s BBQ and the Wyndham Garden Resort. At the entry to the festival, guests can take photos with the new 70’ x 20’ sculpted sand art feature to be created by a variety of artists.
For more information, please visit www.FMBSandSculpting.com or the event’s Facebook page: American Sand Sculpting.
Keri Hendry Weeg