Category: Sand Sculpting Events

Professional Sand Sculpting

Professional Sand Sculpting


In a world were almost every sand sculptor can call them self a Master Sculptor, there is at least one artist who has the common sence to shun the term. Sean Fitzpatrick, owner and founder of has sculpted sand for over 20 years and admittedly is still learning new things about the medium. When asked about the commonly used term, “Master Sculptor” this is what he had to say. “I believe the term was originally used to describe the artists of the renaissance period. These artists were most likely still learning as well, but having been commissioned by the Vatican, it gave them a status that other artists of the period could aspire to. In the sand sculpting world, the term is loosely used to differentiate the different categories in a contest. For the same reason the term is used to describe artists that perform at the highest level. In recent years however the term has lost its meaning and even artists with lower skill sets have adopted the title.”

professional sand sculpting
25 ton recarve sand sculpture rear view.

So how do you know who to hire for your next sand sculpting project given this information? The simple answer is to search for a true professional. A professional sand sculptor is easily identified. They work full-time at his or her craft. You won’t find weekend enthusiasts in this category! They operate their business at the highest level and always give their clients more than they expect. They are courteous, intelligent, friendly, interactive with guests and always own up to their mistakes , correcting them immediately without attempting to shift blame. Professional sand sculptors carry insurance and are fully licensed. They proudly display their own work on their websites and update them regularly. Professional sculptors follow-up immediately on your first request for information. They are knowledgable about all aspects of the industry and can handle  almost any logistical challenge thrown at them. Professional sand sculptors only hire and work with other professional sand sculptors. If you are given an unususlly low price, you should be very cautious. Sand sculpting companies that offer steep discounts typically hire lower quality sculptors in the hopes that your expectations are very low. In the end you will need to trust your gut. There is a lot to be said about first impressions. Make a few calls and test the waters. Then give Sean Fitzpatrick a call and ask him why its better to hire a professional than a Master! You’ll be happy you did. He will earn your business, one grain at a time.

Sean Fitzpatrick can be reached day or night 7 days a week at or directly at 781-249-1494.

Share on Facebook
Cape Cod Sand Sculpture Trail

Cape Cod Sand Sculpture Trail

If you plan on heading down to the Cape this summer, you don’t want to miss Fitzy Snowman’s amazing Cape Cod Sand Sculpture Trail. The trail currently consists of over thirty five sand sculptures created by Fitzy Snowman artists, Sean, Tracey and Ryan Fitzpatrick and visiting artists Suzanne Altamare and Fred Mallett.
Your first stop on the Trail will be Mashpee Commons. There you will find the first three sculptures that were created for the New England Sand Sculpting Invitational.

These are expected to be on display through mid-August and were themed “Summer Blockbusters”. After checking out the sand sculptures, grab a bite at one of several fine restaurants or browse through dozens of quaint boutique shops in Mashpee Commons. At this point you will want to head east route 28 towards the Town of Yarmouth. Your first stop will be the Hampton Inn of Yarmouth. As you pull in you will notice the first of sand sculptures located in Yarmouth. I would suggest spending the night in one of their beautiful rooms before venturing out on your hunt for the remaining sculptures. If you still have energy and wish to continue your journey grab a sand sculpture map at the front desk or at the Yarmouth Visitors Center and start your hunt. There are 28 total 2 ton business sculpture scattered around town along with 3 giant sculptures located at Smuggelers Beach near the Red Jacket Resort.
After you suceed in finding all 31 sculptures in Yarmouth you will want to head up the road to Cuffy’s of Cape Cod, located on Rout 28 in West Dennis. There you will find the largest single sand sculpture on all of the Cape. The sculpture weighs in at a staggering 22 tons, takes up  100 square feet and is over 9 feet tall from its base. If you can’t make it down to the cape this summer, be sure to make your plans for next year. We plan on doing over 50 of these amazing sculptures!

Share on Facebook
Second Annual Yarmouth Summer Celebration

Second Annual Yarmouth Summer Celebration

For immediate release 5/16/2012. World renowned master sand sculptor Sean Fitzpatrick of Fitzy Snowman Sculpting  will be returning to West Yarmouth this summer to  execute the largest single sand sculpting exhibition in the North East United States. He will be accompanied by three other international superstars of sand sculpting, Suzanne Altamare, star of Sand wars and Sand Blasters, Fred Mallett, international world traveler and award-winning sand sculptor and Tracey Fitzpatrick, expert organiser, logo carver and the overall glue that holds this illustrious team together. In total they will be creating 32 exhibition sculptures at business throughout the town of Yarmouth along with three giant sculptures at Bass River Beach. The public is invited to watch the sculptors build these artistic creations. In addition, attendees are welcome to participate in amateur sand sculpting contests at the Beach on Wednesday, June 27 and Friday, June 29.  The event runs from June, 24th – 29th.

But there’s much more than just sand. Join the fun at Sunday’s “Salsa by the Sea” Latin dance workshop and demonstration, two and four-line kite demonstrations along with a limited inventory of complimentary kite kits for youngsters, an evening ice cream sampling, morning nature walks, a fishing clinic and derby, Cape Cod Sailing Regatta hosted by the Bass River Yacht Club, home Cape League baseball games featuring the Y-D Red Sox including a visit from Wally the Green Monster and canine Frisbee entertainment, stunt bicycling demonstrations, a Summer Celebration Festival with local raw bar, Captain Parker’s award-winning clam chowder, hot dogs, ice cream novelties along with wine, beer and soft beverages, not to mention live beach music by Doctor Rock, a four-piece band headlined by Freddie Ghioto of Freddie and the Maybellines fame and, last but not least, family cartoons on the “big screen” followed by spectacular fireworks finale set to music at dusk.

Share on Facebook
Sand Sculpting events provide economic stimulus

Sand Sculpting events provide economic stimulus

No matter where you live in this country , it’s impossible not to feel the effects of the current economic situation. Just about every aspect of business has seen some type of negative effect over the past few years. Even though many corporations have recovered, posting record earnings, there remains the uncertainty of just how to reinvest those profits. As a professional sand sculpting event consultant, it is my job to let my clients know that a  professional sand sculpting event is still one of the best investments  a corporation, investor or community can make.

Sand sculpting events appeal to a wide range  demographic and are in most cases family friendly events. This makes them an attractive option for local communities, marketing agencies, the hospitality industry and even the local and nationally media outlets. A well-organized sand sculpting festival can generate millions in economic stimulus and inspire social change.

Community benefits. A well produced professional sand sculpting event can give a community  positive name recognition. Many communities struggle to find an identity of their own that helps them stand out, not only in their own region, but on the world stage.  Such was the  case for the City of Revere , home of America’s first Public Beach.  In the early to mid part of the 20th century, Revere Beach thrived as a vacation destination for thousands of people each summer. It’s beach side charm and Coney Island sensation kept people coming year after year. In the later part of the 20th century  Revere struggled to hold onto that reputation as a family fun destination. The amusement parks were replaced by ugly towering cement condos.  Crime and gang violence took a tight hold on the area. In 2004 Fitzy Snowman Sculpting proposed a sand sculpting event that would turn all that around. The event was initially met with resistance from members of the Revere Beach Partnership who had been unsuccessful in previous attempts to create a signature event for the city. Those critics were soon silenced in the Summer of 2005 when close to 100,000 people flocked to the beach to witness history in the making. The three-day event had been dubbed one of the most successful events not only in the city of Revere but in the entire state of Massachusetts.  Fitzy Snowman Sculpting was not only able to design a first year event that made a profit, but also accomplished every goal  that was set forth in the mission plan. The event garnered positive national media coverage and more importantly, the approval of the entire community.  As a direct result of the creation of that event, hundreds of millions of dollars have been dedicated to the improvement and redevelopment of the region. Additionally millions of dollars have been infused into the local community through increased area tourism  since the creation of the event.

Social impact. Events like this have also  has a huge social impact. Prior to the event in 2005, civic pride in the City of Revere was at an all time low. Since then however, the positive impact  has given residents and community leaders something to brag about. Once a city that was better known for political corruption and gang related crime, Revere is now well known on the world stage as a sand sculptors paradise.

It is important to note that simply hiring a professional sand sculptor will not guarantee you a successful event. There are multiple facets to any  event such as logistics, promotion, marketing, PR and communications and social media. Without someone on board who has  the understanding and expertise in all of these areas, the road to a successful event can be a long painful journey. To learn more about creating a successful sand sculpting event in your community, check out the contact page here and drop us a line.

Share on Facebook
Ever thought of destroying a sand sculpture? Better think twice!

Ever thought of destroying a sand sculpture? Better think twice!

I have been creating sand sculptures at public and private events all over the world for almost 20 years now. It has always been in the back of my mind that someone  might not be able to resist the urge to destroy one of my creations. I could not even imagine how I would react if that had ever happened. Unfortunately I was about to find out.

At a recent public event in Yarmouth MA, vandals destroyed roughly 40 hours of hard work that my team and I had put into a centerpiece sculpture for the Summer Kick Off Celebration. My team and I were just finishing up breakfast and getting ready to hit the beach for our second day of carving when I got the call from parks and recreation director Pat Armstrong. I could tell by the tone of Pat’s voice that something was wrong. ” You’re not going to see what you left last night” , she said, noticeably upset. “It’s pretty bad.” My first reaction was to remain calm and try not to over react.  When we arrived on scene, we found that the top three feet of our ten foot sculpture had been knocked off and all of the carved detail that we had done the day prior was wiped clean. In its place were scratch marks, gaping holes and the word sorry scratched into the surface.

Yarmouth sand sculpture

 At that point my team and I could have given up and  explained to Pat that recovery from such a devastating attack was not possible. What we did do, after the police had finished with their initial investigation of the scene, was get right back to work with our trademark “failure is not an option” attitude. Fortunately for us, we had done such a good job prepping the sand, that it was  difficult to do little more than surface damage to the sculpture. The main body, less three feet in height, was still intact. We made a promise to Pat and the residents of Yarmouth that our finished design would be even better that our original plan. That  same spirit was also reflected in a particular group of life guards who volunteered to hold nightly watches over the sand sculpture to prevent the possibility of future attacks.

Over those next two days, as we completed the sculpture the outpouring of support from the community leaders , residents, media and tourists was incredible.  What ever the vandals were trying to achieve by destroying our hard work, they failed. The one thing they did do was bring added attention to sand sculpture as a legitimate form of public art.  Thousands of people turned out to view the progress of the sculpture and many more will continue to enjoy it over the next few weeks. Yes, I think we kept true to our promise to Pat and the Town of Yarmouth.Our sculpture was received very well by the thousands who came to see it. We were even able to include an additional element into the sculpture to pay tribute to all the life guards that graciously volunteered their time to watch over it each night.  There were a few people who were quick to blame the attack on the irresponsible young people. I will make the point that this group of young people, under the direction of Pat Armstrong, were some of the most admirable group of people that this artist has ever met.



Yarmouth Sand Sculpting

sand sculpture yarmouth

The police are still investigating the incident. While it is not the crime of the century, destruction of public art is considered a felony in most states. If the suspects are caught, I would suggest to the judge hearing the case to consider having them volunteer to help us prep all the sand for next year’s event. Perhaps if they experience all the hard work that goes into creating a sand sculpture , it will make them think twice about ever destroying one  again…One Grain at a Time.

Share on Facebook
The story behind the logo of the World Championship of Sand Sculpting

The story behind the logo of the World Championship of Sand Sculpting

 To the average person looking at this logo for the first time, it may seem a bit unremarkable. The very nature of the design doesn’t necessarily bring sand sculpting to mind, but  show this logo to most professional sand sculptors  and you will get an immediate reaction. This simple design, that was officially reintroduced to the world of professional sand sculpting in the summer of 2010, symbolizes the very best of professional sand sculpting.  

The story of just how this logo came to be starts in the mid 80’s when a man by the name of Joe Maize had the design  etched onto t-shirts at one of the very first professional sand sculpture events in Harrison Hot Springs, BC.  I never had the opportunity to meet Joe, but just ask anyone who has and you will get a sence of what kind of impact he made on everyone he came in contact with. His outrageous sence of humor and dry, say it like it is attitude were his personal  trademarks. Sadly, the world lost Joe to cancer in August of 2006. He was just 52.

Photo Courtesy of Carl Jara

When I learned that the World Championship was moving to the US in 2010, I immediately asked how I could help. Because I had experience with  graphic design, I was tasked with designing a website and more importantly restoring the logo that Joe had created all those years ago. The original drawing I had to work with was nothing more than a grainy scanned image. Suzanne Altamare a friend of Joe had gotten the copy from another friend of Joe’s, Charlie Beaulieu. Suzanne had been attempting to clean up this fuzzy image in her spare time. The image below is what I first saw. I imagine it was in much worse shape before Suzanne spent many hours  cleaning it up.

Joe Maize

The first part of the process was to create a black and white line drawing in illustrator followed by a careful color selection process. For the logos that were to be used in digital print and  the website, I added some shadow and lighting effects. The total process took several days of testing and tweaking. In the end it was worth all the hard work. There are several variations that reflect the specific area that the contest (s) will take place in as well as an official qualifier logo. They are all derivatives of this primary design. (other logo variations not shown here) The results are seen below.

Worlds Logos

This year the 2011 World Championship of Sand Sculpting will  be celebrating  25 years. To commemorate this milestone I’ve added a few  new features to the logo that reflect the silver anniversary of this amazing event. I consider it a great honor to have been trusted with the task of restoring this iconic symbol. Special thanks to Charlie, Suz, Doc, the countless others who have given their time and of course, Joe Maize for creating the original design. May your sand stand…. One Grain at a Time! 

 25-years World Championships

Share on Facebook
Judging a Master Sand Sculpting Contest

Judging a Master Sand Sculpting Contest

Currently, there is no unified judging system in use at professional level sand sculpting competitions. What that means is that each contest sets its own judging criteria and appoints its own judges. As you can imagine, this has generated a lot of discussion and a great deal of criticism regarding the outcome of many  contests over the years. Imagine for a moment going to a baseball game in one city, with one set of rules. You then race off to another city with, you guessed it, a completely different set of rules. Now, I’m not trying to simplify the issue by saying sand sculpting is somehow like baseball. In fact the two couldn’t be more different. With any competitive process, there needs to be a set of standard rules in place in order to add legitimacy to that process.

The lack of a unified judging system is not the result of any lack of concern from organizers or sculptors. In fact the pursuit of the ideal judging system itself may be contributing to the lack of unification.  In order to shed some light on this complicated subject, lets take a look at a few different types of judging panels

Sculptor Judging This system is pretty much what it sounds like. At the conclusion of the competition, competitors judge each others work.  Pros: Sand sculptors are the best qualified to judge due to their understanding of the medium. Cons: Fierce rivalries can  lead to vote shifting, the practice of placing a perceived rival artist at a lower position in order to boost the score of another artist.

 Celebrity Judging You guessed it. The judging panel is made up of a mix of local news anchors, politicians and even costumed team mascots. Pros: Can provide an unbiased opinion of all the completed sculptures. Cons: Lack a clear understanding of the intricacies of sand sculpture, often voting with their personal tastes rather than for artistic or technical merit.

Organizing sculptor lead judging panel This panel is composed of various individuals, with varying artistic backgrounds, not necessarily related to   sand sculpture. The panel receives all of its instruction, regarding judging, from the  event’s organizing artist. Pros: Panels artistic background can be helpful in the overall judging process. Cons:  There is always a chance that the organizing artist’s personal opinion will weigh too heavily on the judging panel.

People’s choice I don’t actually know of an event that relies solely on this method but it deserved mentioning. This method is simple, spectators cast votes for their favorite sculpture. Pros: A  larger number of votes can  add validity to the end result. Cons: Potential for a local artists to benefit unfairly due to  the home team advantage factor.

Now that I’ve covered the judging panels, lets take a closer look at how the votes are cast and calculated.  In most case judges are handed individual  voting sheets for each sculptor. These voting sheets vary from event to event.  Some systems use  the numbers one to ten, others use letters A through D. Both represent how well the artist has met the criteria  for that specific category. Most events have basic categories that an artist must score highly in to place in the top three places. Here are a few examples of those categories.

  • Artistic impression
  • Technical difficulty
  • Originality
  • Execution of carving skills

These categories can vary greatly from event to event, especially if the contest in themed based. In this case the artists are bound to create  sculpture that related to the theme of the event.

As sand sculpting contest progress and expand in the US and around the world, the need for a unified judging system is needed now more than ever. Here are a few things I would like to see in a unified system. 

  • Transparency: All judging results should be clearly posted for open viewing, including the names of the judges.
  • Every sculptor judged:  Every competitor deserves to know where they rank at a contest, not just the top five
  • Certified judging panel: An intensive certification process should  be established for judges.
  • Creation of sculpting genres: Architecture, contemporary, classical and eclectic should be separated in larger events
  • Best overall: Best over all should be selected from the top works from each genre
  • Simplified judging criteria: Quite simply, we do not need to reinvent the wheel.

 If you have any suggestions please add them in the comment section below.

Share on Facebook
The Happy Couple and the Sand Castle

The Happy Couple and the Sand Castle

I have worked for many private clients over the years. I can tell you honestly,  that few clients have left as big of an impression on me as the families of Jim and Beverly.  It all started  a  few months back with an unassuming call from Marie, the sister of the groom. We talked for several minutes about what she was looking  for at  her brother’s wedding.  I could hear the sence of importance in her voice. I would later learn that Marie along with Adela, Jim’s personal assistant had done a great deal of searching for just the right person to create a  sand sculpture for this special day. At some point in the conversation something happened that was quite unique and remarkable,  Marie began to share the story of Jim and his fiance Beverly along with the fact that Jim was widowed, having lost his first wife  who was only 50.  I was moved beyond words. I explained that a majority of my projects take several days to complete, but that I was willing to take on this single day project, should she decide to move forward.  Marie concluded the conversation on an upbeat tone expressing her excitement about the project. She now planned on pitching the idea to a small group of collaborators that included  Adela, Jim’s assistant.

A few days later I heard back from Marie, this time by way of email. Again there was a overwhelming sence of excitement, even evident  in her digital transcript. She had gotten the approval from the family members that she was seeking.  The project was on. It was at this time, that I began to share in her own sence of excitement.  Just knowing how important this sculpture was to her and  for both families raised my heart rate more than just a few beats.

Failure is not an option & anything is possible  Are not just words or even  just a slogan to me. It is a philosophy that I adhere to and take very seriously every day. On a follow-up call to discuss the design of the sculpture, Marie had hesitantly mentioned the possibility of incorporating an airplane into the sculpture because of Jim’s love of flying.  After responding immediately with “YES!”, I followed up with the question” what type of airplane?” Within minutes I got a photo of a scale model of Jim’s personal plane from Adela, who secretly snapped the photo, I imagine, right under his nose.

Jim's Plane
Jim's Plane

About a week later, I received a sample of the sand from the beach that I would be creating the sculpture. While the sand was crystal white and  clean, it lacked the physical properties of good sculpting sand. Many sculptors at this point might have called the client and cancelled the project or convinced the client into a more expensive and time-consuming option of importing sand to a public beach. Instead, I simply altered the design slightly to accommodate for the less than stable sand. The final design that I submitted to Marie for her approval included all the options she requested. First was the classical enchanted  sandcastle, second was Jim’s airplane. The whole design was unified with  clouds  and a banner trailing behind the plane with the names of the bride and groom. A few moments after submitting the design for approval, I received a call from Marie. While the sketch was quite simple, she immediately saw my vision for her idea and shouted, ” I love it!” I can tell you, it really feels good to connect with a client  like that with the very first design submission.

Off to the beach Over the next several weeks Marie continued to stay in contact, discussing the details of the wedding. Prior to my departure for the project she had one last request.  Because I was going to be building this sculpture on the beach in the middle of the setup for their ceremony, there was a  need to inform the groom to avoid any awkward confrontation during the build.

The Plan We decided that I would meet the families at a local beach bar the night before the wedding. I introduced myself as long-lost cousin Sean from Poughkeepsie. I’m not one hundred percent sure, but for the most part, the family members  initially bought the story. I knew things would be a bit tougher when it came to introducing myself to Marie’s brother Jim, the groom. Jim definitely wasn’t buying my story one bit but was a great sport about the prank and played along. I could tell Jim was feeling a bit un easy by my presence. Perhaps Marie  has a history of pranking her brother?

Jim & Beverly
Jim & Beverly off the hook

Off the hook  After about an hour it was time to reveal my true identity to the whole family. Marie and Adela gathered both families  at one of the larger outdoor tables and I made my announcement. ” I’m actually not long-lost cousin Sean  from Poughkeepsie, I actually don’t even know where that is”, I said. ” I’m actually a world-famous professional sand sculptor that had been commissioned to create a wonderful  sand sculpture for Jim and Beverly on their special day.” It was pretty cool to see the look of both relief and excitement in Jim’s and Beverly’s eyes. Jim would later tell me that he thought I was a comedian sent in to give him a good roasting! The rest of the evening, I was able to spend some quality time getting to know all the family a little better. Some family members  actually continued to refer to me as cousin Sean. That was pretty cool.

A perfect day  The next morning I got off to an early start. Having examined the sand samples weeks earlier, I knew I had my work cut out for me. The crew at the Portofino Island Resort where the wedding was to be held, provided me with everything I needed to complete my sculpture. They even  gave me a crew of extremely hard-working laborers who tirelessly filled my water buckets. Collectively they hand delivered over six hundred gallons of water to the sculpture site. About seven and a half hours later the sculpture was finally complete. I had  a few minor scares during construction. At about the midway point the entire sculpture shifted almost six inches but remained completely intact. If I didn’t see it myself, I would have never believed it possible. Had the weather not been as perfect as it was that day, the wind a little stronger, the temperature a little higher, all of my hard work that day would have ended with disaster. I definitely had the assistance of a higher power that day.

The random encounter  One of the coolest parts of my job is meeting and getting to know new people. Sometimes completely unexpected circumstances create truly memorable moments. Prior to the ceremony, I was clearing the area around the sculpture  when a woman and her two young boys walked up to the sculpture.  She mentioned how she had heard some people down the beach talking about this cool sculpture and had to come and check it out. I could see that the sculpture had an immediate affect on her. It was obvious that it had brightened her day. We talked about the art of sand sculpture and how my daughter had inspired be to get into this business  almost twenty years ago. It was at that point that she revealed to me that she had recently lost her two-year old daughter to leukemia. Dealing with that type of tragic loss is a  struggle that she must face every day. Knowing that even for a few moments my sculpture lifted her spirits was a  very special moment. 

Jim and Beverly's Wedding
Jim and Beverly's Wedding

The ceremony   As the ceremony got under way, the sun was just beginning to set. As the bride to be made her way down the aisle, the sun seemed to follow her. By the time she met her future husband at the end of the aisle the sun cast a magical spotlight on the wedding party. Officiating over the ceremony was Jim’s future brother in law John. I’m not sure if this was his first time officiating over a marital ceremony or not but  he did an amazing job. Once the nuptials were read and the wedding was official, the bride and groom made their way to the ocean’s edge followed closely by the wedding party and guests. As the couple passed the sand sculpture, they both caught my eye and flashed the thumbs up sign as they admired the sculpture. When they reached the water’s edge,  sea shells were ceremoniously tossed into the surf. I had never before seen such gesture at a wedding. What a fantastic idea.

Sea shells at the sea shore
Sea shells at the sea shore

The Reception This is the part of the story where I’m  usually packing up my tools and heading off to the airport for the next project.  If this was a typical client on a typical day, that may have been the case. That said,  this was not a typical client and as I mentioned, it was a perfect day. Marie welcomed me to  be a guest the reception.  I must admit I had a great time. Now this may not seem like a big deal to the average reader and honestly I don’t care. This is my blog and I just wanted to let the world know it was a big deal to me. Special thanks to my new friends from your long-lost cousin Sean …. from  Poughkeepsie.

Share on Facebook
Sand Sculpting events past, present and future.

Sand Sculpting events past, present and future.

Sand sculpting exhibitions and events have been popular in the United States since the late 1800’s . Historical accounts, postcards and rare photos confirm that sand sculptures have been attracting huge crowds to business districts for well over a hundred years. Early artists, some commissioned by business owners, some working strictly for tips, created huge relief sculptures along the boardwalk in Atlantic City, NJ. These sculptures attracted tourists and local residents, who marveled at these intricate creations. Unfortunately, after several decades of these successful exhibitions, a handful of con artists took advantage of the huge crowds these sculptures generated and caused a pick pocket panic frenzy that lead to the outlawing of sand sculpting exhibitions on the Atlantic City Boardwalk in 1944.  This law is actually still on the books to this day.

Sand Sculpture 1910
Sand Sculpture Atlantic City 1910


Following WWII families returned to the beaches in huge numbers. Americans were again embracing beach side communities as vacation hot spots. Soon family sand sculpture contests sprung up all over the east coast.  In the early 70’s, incredible masterpieces were documented reappearing in California. Gerry Kirk and Todd VanderPluym, collectively known as Sand Sculptors International (SSI) created fanciful architectural wonders that reignited America’s interest in sand sculpture exhibitions.  Another artist, the late Mark Altamare was leaving  his mark ( no pun intended) on the east coast. Starting in Ocean City , MD during the summer of 1968  Mark honed his natural  gift of  soft sand carving. By simply manipulating the freshly piled sand with  only his, hands he would craft wonderous classical and religious scenes. These three artists, while on different paths, all represented a new generation of full-time  professional sand sculptors.

Beach 1950's
Back to the beaches 1950's


A  Championship event is born

World RecordIn 1986 one of the first  organized sand castle competitions took place in the small town of Whiterock, BC. The event was successful in attracting over 100,000 spectators. Unfortunately the small town was unable to handle such large crowds. Wide spread vandalism forced the community council to ban future sand sculpting events at this small town. At that time it must have seemed like sand sculpting events would never get off the ground. Fortunately for these artists, not far away in a town known as Harrison’s Hot Springs, BC, a local Lions group, headed by John Green thought there would be potential for a sandcastle event in Harrison Hot Springs.  He persuaded the Lions Club and the Chamber of Commerce  members to make an investment in a handful of professional sculptors from Whiterock to build an exhibition sculpture on the beach at Harrison’s Hot Springs. This first event in the spring of 1987 was a local success so they decided to hold a contest in the Fall of 1987 that attracted teams from Seattle and Vancouver to compete for a $2000 first prize.  Compared to current day sand sculpting contests that range from 21 – 27 hours, this team contest was only 4 hours long. The event continued to grow throughout the late 80’s into the 90’s with several landmark achievements such as setting two world records for the tallest sand sculpture and more importantly creating a place for sand sculptors to network and set goals for the future of sand sculpting as a competitive spectators event.

More sculpting events

The 1980’s also saw the creation of several other sand sculpting contests around the United States. Many of these events were started by city council groups, chambers and community groups hoping to boost their tourism industry. Sculptor from around the country flocked to these contests attempting to make  a name for them selves in the sand sculpting community. Events like Sand Castle Days on  South Padre Island, TX, the Neptune Festival in Virginia Beach, VA and the American Sand Sculpting Championship in Fort Myers, FL  continue to contribute millions of dollars in stimulus to the local economies they support.  

Successes and failures

While these events experienced relative success, they were not without problems of their own.  Many events suffered from shifting control over the years of  mostly volunteer groups which failed to provide a stable platform for a unified contest series. Even with the birth of the internet and the ability to share experiences between events, most communities chose to keep a closed-door policy on the sharing of information.  Sculptors also struggled  to take advantage of the success of these events, partly due to the lack of a unified voice among sculptors but mostly because there were few events that were organised by sculptors. The simple fact was the artists were outnumbered by the organizers. Any artist who complained about less than stellar prize money or poor judging practices was most likely to be shut out of  the contest the following year.

The pursuit of structure

 Fortunately, a hand full of sculptors  had taken advantage of their exposure and were able to create independent sculpting companies of their own. This had  allowed them to make a full-time living creating sculptures for corporate and private clients  as well as help create new sand sculpting events of their own. This shift in control over events has been a slow one but constantly progressing forward. Event organisers have started to rely more heavily on the participation of sculptors in the oversight of their events as well.

Change is in the air

The most significant change in professional sand sculpting came in 2009. It became apparent after 22 years, what had come to be known as the World Championship of Sand Sculpting in Harrison’s Hot Springs was not going to take place. A shift in political and developmental policy at Harrison’s had forever closed the doors on the historic event. Even though the global sand sculpting community had never  fully come to recognise the event  as the one true World Championship, its loss was no less painful for all the artists that had attended it over the years. A small group of passionate artists that included Suzanne Altamare, widow to the late Mark Altamare under took the daunting task of finding a new home for the World Championships. Suzanne, a talented sand sculptor herself, was experienced and well-respected  by both sand sculptors and event organisers. Her passion for the advancement of professional sand sculpting events as well as the advancement of the artists themselves  is unlike anything this writer has ever known. It would not be long before a new location was found.   

A sence of unity

World Championship of Sand SculptingIn the fall of 2010 in a small town outside of Seattle , WA  known as Federal Way, a new World Championship of Sand Sculpting was held. While the event was far from perfect, it had successfully achieved what no single  event in sand sculpting history had done before. This event now had qualifying events in seven different countries! For the first time events around the globe opened up their doors and cooperated. A major advantage in this new open door policy was the ability to share travel costs of artists which in some cases had been up to the artist to cover. Much work is still needed to continually improve the system of professional sand sculpting. For now it seems that a hand full of artists have taken the lead. From what I have seen, there is nothing that can stop them.  For now this story is…. TO BE CONTINUED! 

Share on Facebook
Cincopa WordPress plugin