Top Sand Sculptors for Annual Championship

Art is boundless while sky is the limit for artists. And this time, these artists will use beach sand to touch that limit.

The pristine, sugary white sand of Fort Myers Beach, Fla., once again will draw master sand sculptors from around the globe for the 24th Annual American SandSculpting Championship & Beach Festival on Nov. 10-14, 2010.

Competition will be keen as 17 master sand sculptors who together hold at least 35 world titles descend upon the destination, with the winner receiving an automatic bid to the world championship in September 2011.

This is the second year that the Fort Myers Beach competition will be one of only 11 qualifying sites for the world championship.

Last year’s American SandSculpting Champion Thomas Koet of Melbourne, Fla., went on to win the solo world championship in Federal Way, Wa., last month. It was the first time in his 12 years of professional sandsculpting that Koet competed in the world championship.

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“A number of master sculptors have told us that our sand is the best or second best in the world,” said Andrew Cochrane, chair of the Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce who has chaired the American SandSculpting event for the past five years.

“Our very fine, powdery pure sand is square-shaped so it bonds together like blocks, sculpts well and allows intricate detail as opposed to more rounded sand that doesn’t stick together as well.”

This year’s competition spread over a half-mile of beach will employ about 1,500 tons of native Fort Myers Beach sand in which the master (professional) sculptors, Florida State (semi-professional) and amateur sculptors will compete for cash prizes and trophies.

As one of the preeminent professional sandsculpting competitions in the world, the event’s master sculptors include: 13 competitors from the 2010 world championship; four of the five Team USA sand sculptors who took second place in this year’s team world championship; 2009 world champion Carl Jara of Cleveland, Ohio; the only three-time consecutive solo world champion Dan Belcher of St. Louis, Mo.; guest of NBC’s “The Today Show” and ABC’s “Good Morning America” Matt Long of New York; and 2008 first place winner of The Travel Channel’s “Sand Blasters: The Extreme Sand Sculpting Championship” Lucinda “Sandy Feet” Wierenga.

The event is expected to attract 50,000 people this year. Event-goers can watch the masters at work, take sandsculpting lessons, build their own sculpture, or visit the Sand Magic Village to find a variety of exhibitors and food vendors.

They also can attend “Paint the Beach: Sandcastles to Shrimpboats,” an outdoor art competition, exhibition and sale Nov. 8-14.

Master sand sculptors will begin on Nov. 11; and the Florida State sculptors will start on Nov. 13, with amateurs starting Nov. 14. An awards ceremony for all competitions will take place at 3 p.m. on Nov. 14.

The event’s two sandsculpting galleries will open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. For close viewing, visitors can purchase a Master’s View pass. Adults are $5 per day, and children and seniors are $3 per day.

The maximum for a family is $10 per day. Charges only apply to the competition days, when tickets will be sold from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission to the Sand Magic Village is free.

According to organizers, no parking is available on site. Event-goers can park at Lovers Key State Park and take complimentary shuttle buses to and from the event.

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Rakesh Raman