The 33rd annual American Sand Sculpting Championship returns to Fort Myers Beach from Friday, November 22, through Sunday, December 1, at the Wyndham Garden Hotel at 6890 Estero Boulevard daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. In addition to the talented sculptors, there will be Quick Sand speed sculpting, Kid’s Zones, sand sculpting demonstrations, live music and the Sand Vendor Village with a record number of exhibitors. The 2019 American Sand Sculpting Championship is one of the biggest of its kind, with roughly 50,000 people annually attending the event.
“We award the Solo winner on Sunday the 24th,” said Bill Knight, Championship co-chair with wife Marianne of “The Sand Lovers” from Fort Myers. “The Doubles and Advance Amateur Crowns on Sunday, December 1. There is a true Amateur Contest on Saturday, November 23, with 6 categories open to everyone.”
Even though the American Sand Sculpting Championship does not officially begin until Friday, November 22, Bill explained, “Most of the Master Sculptors are already on the Wyndham beach by Friday, November 15, to prepare the initial sculptures so guests early in the Championship will already see some masterpieces! One of the sculptures you will not believe is the signature design that all of the Masters work on together as a group carving. It is going to be a 360-degree sculpture that is a salute to the seasons that has never been done anywhere else in the entire world and will be massive!”
He invites everyone to a free “Meet The Sculptors” evening at the Fish-Tale Waterfront Dining Restaurant at the Santini Marina Plaza at 7225 Estero Boulevard on Wednesday, November 20, at 6 p.m. During the actual competitions, Bill encourages all visitors to interact with the sand sculptors: “Ask questions, as these folks are phenomenal artists, so soak up as much as you can, plus they all have fantastic personalities with great backstories.”
Most Amazing on Earth!
Feature sculptors compete in the Solo Championship the first week, followed by the Doubles competition the second. “We have 19 Master Sand Sculptors in the Solo Division,” Bill related. “Many stay for the second week, composing the 5 Doubles Teams. There are an additional 11 competitors in the Advanced Amateur Division, so these are 30 of the most amazing sand sculptors on Earth! The Sculptors represent 10 states and 8 nations, including our first competitor from Russia. Many of our Master Sculptors are World Champions with over 400 competition medals, including more than 40 from this event alone.”
The 2019 Master Sculptors are Laurie Arntz-Tournoux, Christy McDonald Atkinson, Charles Beaulieu, Melineige Beauregard, Seveline Beauregard, Jihoon Choi, Delayne Corbett, Maxim Gazendam, John Gowdy, Laura Gowdy, Chris Guinto, Amazin’ Walter McDonald, Bryan Obermeyer, Bruce Peck, Bruce Phillips, Irina Sokolova, Brett Stocker, Jeff Strong and Bruce Waugh. The Doubles teams include Melineige & Seveline Beauregard, Jihoon Choi & Bruce Phillips, John & Laura Gowdy, and Christy McDonald Atkinson & Amazin’ Walter McDonald, with one more to come. “Choi and Phillips are a team again this year because they won the Double Competition last year and are defending their crown,” Bill explained. “As for the other groupings, family circumstances rule! Christy and Amazin’ are father-&-daughter, the Beauregards are sisters, and the Gowdys husband-&-wife.”
Advanced Amateur competitors are Amanda Bolduc, Lisa Fewless, Mitch Guerrero, Rich Hoover, Marc Mangia, Bob May, Darrell O’Conner, Brendan Schaffer, Shannon Summey, Paul Warren, and Mark Wilson. An Advanced Amateur is someone who placed 1st, 2nd or 3rd in other sculpting contests but is not a professional. They use 1 to 3 tons of sand, with 3 to 6 hours of sculpting time, while professionals have 2 to 3 days, with roughly 9 tons of sand and 20 sculpting hours.
Bill calls a highlight, “The Amateur Contest, on Saturday, November 23, and that is so fantastic! There is registration at 9 a.m., the contest is from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and the Award Ceremony at 4:45 p.m. It is so much fun, and you can compete either as a solo participant or in a team.” Categories include solo children up to 12 years of age; children’s teams with all participants age 12 & under with up to 6 kids per team; families or groups up to 6 people per team; businesses with up to 6 per team; solo competitors ages 13 to 17; and solo adults age 18 and over, with 1st through 3rd place awards in each category. The registration fee is $15, with children only paying the Championship admission cost.
Sand Under The Stars
Unique this year is “Sand Under The Stars” on Saturday evening, November 30, from 6 to 9 p.m. “We light up the sculptures, with the ‘Medley Brothers’ providing the music, and we will make it a big party,” raved Bill! “Admission for this special night is $10-per-person and we know that everyone will really enjoy themselves!”
As for the best time to attend the American Sand Sculpting Championship, when you can have a little elbow room, “about any morning from 10 a.m. to Noon,” advised Bill. “The one instance this may not be true is Thanksgiving Day! People tend to put their turkey in the oven and let it slowly cook while they come to the Championship, then head home in the afternoon to enjoy their feast.”
The one activity Bill most recommends that Sand Sculpting visitors should not miss “is the Quick Sand speed sculpting,” he said without hesitation! “The sculptors literally create something spectacular in 10 minutes or less, based on subjects suggested by the audience. What they accomplish in minutes demonstrates their incredible talents!”
Once all the competitions are underway, visitors will see roughly 50 memorable sand sculptures. “That is why we encourage everyone to come out more than once,” offered Bill. “The sculptures you watch the artists working on the first week are complete by the second, and those they start the last week complement the prior ones. Don’t let rain discourage you, because water holds the sand sculptures together and the sculptors are tough people! As anyone who lives in Southwest Florida knows, just because it is raining in your neighborhood doesn’t mean it is raining on the beach. In fact, a cloudy day can often be more comfortable on the sand than a sunny one, so make your plans to come to Fort Myers Beach whatever the weather. With sand, sun, art and music, the American Sand Sculpting Championship will exceed all your expectations!”
For Bill and Marianne, who have been involved with the event since 2006 either as competitors, facilitators and now directors, the American Sand Sculpting Championship is almost a year-round event. “Once it wraps up in early December, we take a couple of weeks off, but as soon as the holidays are over in January, we are right back at it, getting it ready for the next year, including the crucial role of lining up the world-class Master Sculptors, although now that the Fort Myers Beach competition has such a world class reputation, that is much easier these days. As for Marianne and I, we basically start to live on the beach on November 15 and rarely leave until a few days after the Championship’s conclusion.”
Watching Masterpieces Evolve
Admission is $8-per-person, with kids 4 & under free. A Family Pass for two adults and 2 children ages 5 to 12 is $25, and there are VIP Packages at $45-per-person that includes a meal from Texas Tony’s Rib & Brewhouse, four complementary drink tickets, event t-shirt, and access to the exclusive Zing Patio Lounge with comfortable seating and shade.
Advance ticket sales are available at reduced prices through the Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce. You can purchase tickets at their office at 2450 Estero Blvd, FMB or on their website: FortMyersBeach.org Call 239-454-7500 for more information.
Free parking is available at Lovers Key State Park, with complementary shuttle service to and from the Wyndham. Approach Lovers Key from the south if possible, to avoid Estero Boulevard construction in the center sector of the island.
Marvel at the creativity of many of the world’s greatest sand sculptors at the 33rd annual American Sand Sculpting Championship at the Wyndham Garden Hotel from Friday, November 22, through Sunday, December 1. For details, see FMBSandSculpting.com or Facebook at American Sand Sculpting. For sponsorship information, go to SponsorInfo@FMBsandsculpting.com. To be a part of the Sand Vendor Village or to volunteer, contact the Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce at 239-454-7500.
For Bill, “My favorite part is watching these sand sculpting masterpieces evolve! I am really busy during the Championship so I will be running around doing a bunch of things, and then when I have a free moment or two, I look around and suddenly see all these magnificent works of art that did not exist the day or even a few hours before, and that to me is amazing!”