Sitting on the white crystal sand that makes up Siesta Key Beach, it’s difficult to resist the urge to scoop it into piles and begin sculpting. Its fine consistency allows for tight packing, and the beach provides a convenient medium for beachgoers to tap into their inner artist and get creative.
This Saturday, May 4, aspiring sand sculptors can put their skills to the test at the 41st annual Siesta Key Sand Sculpture Contest.
Sarasota County Parks and Recreation beach event coordinator Jonathan Poyner has been involved with the contest for four years, and he says he can relate to the natural urge to turn sand into art.
“I think we’re all kids at heart,” he says. “At some point, we’ve all filled buckets with sand, and when we were kids, we had that sense of adventure. It really brings you back. Even just watching other people sculpt can remind people of their childhood.”
About 40 competitors of all ages and skill levels will come, buckets and shovels in hand, to Siesta Key Beach to compete in the four categories, including adult humorous; adult miscellaneous; youth ages 11 to 17; and children ages 10 and younger.
This year, sunscreen company Ocean Potion, a sponsor, will offer an area filled with umbrellas, beach chairs and featuring a professional sand sculptor performing demonstrations. Other event sponsors include: Observer Media Group; Visit Sarasota County; the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce; the Siesta Key Village Association; the Best Western Plus: Siesta Key; and The Broken Egg.
This year’s contest offers $1,500 in total cash prizes, and Poyner says the event is a great starting point for local sculpting enthusiasts with aspirations to turn professional.
“Sculptors who hope to be a professional can get some experience and exposure,” he says. “We’ve had a few people go on to have successful professional careers, like Brian Wigelsworth, who won three years in a row.”
Last year’s winner, Andrew Dailey, says he only began sand sculpting two years ago, after his fiancé encouraged him to try it. The tattoo artist and painter says the Siesta Key Sand Sculpture Contest was his first real competition.
“Some of my two-dimensional skills transfer, but it’s a lot different,” he says of sand sculpting. “I get a little better every time, and our Siesta Key sand is gorgeous. I’ve competed in other contests around the state, and our sand packs much tighter and you can build much taller with it.”
Regardless of skill level, anyone is invited to compete or just admire the work of others.
“My favorite part is that it gives the community something to do with family or friends for free,” says Poyner. “And, it provides people an outlet to express their artistic abilities.”
If you go
Siesta Key Amateur Sand Sculpture Contest — takes place from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, May 4, at Siesta Key Public Beach. Same-day registration. Free entry. Call 861-5000. Judging takes place at 1 p.m.
Andrew Dailey, winner of last year’s contest, lends his advice to newcomers.
Plan ahead — “Get an idea of what you want to sculpt, and maybe draw out a few sketches beforehand. If I’m working on something complicated, I’ll pull up a few photos on my phone for reference.”
Practice makes perfect — “My fiancé and I go to the beach all the time, and I just play. I don’t usually plan; I just start moving sand and see what comes out.”
Wetter is better — “You can’t get the sand too wet before you start sculpting. Make sure it’s really wet and packed really tightly before you start.”
Order of operations — “It’s kind of common sense, but make sure you sculpt from the top down, or else you’ll drip sand down onto the detail you just worked so hard on.”