|High-Resolution photo of the 2004 Pirate Ship Demo Sculpture photographed by sandy feet||As the bikers roar home from South Padre's shores, they will be quickly replaced by the "sand people" heading this way. The 18th annual SPI Sand Castle Days Competition - scheduled for Oct. 18-23 at the South Padre Island Sheraton - is expected to draw thousands of spectators, hundreds of weekend sandcastling enthusiasts and 15 of the best master sand sculptors in the world.
As in years past, the masterful exhibition of sand sculpting talent at the world-class level will be the big draw, supplemented by the giant demo sculpture created by the island's own team of professional sand sculptors - the Sons of the Beach Sandcastle Wizards (SoBs). Last year's gigantic pirate ship sculpture, which also functioned as the event stage, was a big hit with the public and was featured on recent broadcasts of The Travel Channel. This year's SoB-led group carve will feature a coral reef theme and will be started on Monday, Oct. 17. Everyone is invited to come out and see for themselves how a huge sand sculpture is created.
Saturday, Oct. 22, is the biggest day of the event: the masters are finishing up and the open contests take over the rest of the beach. South Padre is always happy to welcome back the 100+ group of families from the San Marcos area - collectively known as the "San Marcos Suns" - as well as lots of new and returning amateurs competing for cash prizes in multiple categories, including the Texas State Championship. Additional activities include free sandcastle lessons throughout the week and an arts and crafts show up on the deck at the Sheraton, Fri.-Sun. As in years past, there will also be spectator participation in the form of a "People's Choice" award - so be sure to come by Saturday afternoon to see the nearly-finished sculptures and cast a vote for your favorite.
This year's line-up of visiting master sculptors is most impressive. In addition to the return of last year's winners - Carl Jara of Cleveland (1st); Karen Fralich of Toronto (tie for 2nd and peoples choice); Meredith Corson of Florida (tie for 2nd) and Dan Doubleday, also of Florida (4th) - other returning sculptors include Marc Lepire of Quebec, Kirk Rademaker of CA; and Rusty Croft of Utah.
The ever-growing contingent of local sculptors will also be well represented: SPI residents Fred "Alderman" Mallett and Lucinda "sandy feet" Wierenga - author of the new book "Sandcastles Made Simple" - will be returning as well as Christy McDonald - who was out of town for the 2004 event but did compete in 2003. And 2005 will see something it has never seen before, which is South Padre Island's own Amazin' Walter McDonald competing in the masters category. Amazin' has always been too busy running the show to compete, so this year the town will get their first opportunity to see what the Grand Pooh-Bah of the SoBs can do when given a big pile of sand and three days to organize it.
In addition to the returning sculptors, this year's event will see some new faces among the masters. Paul Hoggard of Yorkshire, England will be competing as well as his sculptor partner Remy Geerts from the Netherlands. Two other Dutch sculptors - Henri Schollen and Helena Bangert - both from Amsterdam - will help give this year's event a distinctly international flavor.
Master sand sculptor Suzanne Altamar of Daytona, Florida will be returning to work on the logo sculpture with the SoBs, and yet another returning master sculptor, Bert Adams of Vancouver, WA., will be in charge of setting up and running the beach area. Local massage therapist and SoB Dolores Ferrentino will be set up on the Sheraton's deck as usual to offer her soothing services for just $1/minute -- as in the past, all proceeds will benefit the Laguna Madre Humane Society. Over the past decade Dolores has managed to raise thousands of dollars for homeless animals during the event.
The SPI Sons of the Beach have been actively involved with the Sandcastle Days festival since the very first one, held in October of 1988. Every year, the SoBs administer the SoB Pledge to the crowd: "I promise to Have Fun; Help Others have fun, and unlitter! Unlitter means to properly dispose of more garbage than you generate." The SoBs have long used their attention-getting prize-winning sand sculpture to help spread the unlitter message, and the bond between the event and the unlitter campaign continues to grow with every year.
SPI Sand Castle Days is free and open to the public. For more details, the event schedule, photos of past year's contests and a live photo stream from the Sheraton beachfront of this year's event, go to http://www.padresand.com. For free tips on building a better sandcastle, visit