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Sarasota Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021 3 weeks ago

Sand sculptors prepare for Siesta Key's Crystal Classic

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The sand sculpting competition returns Nov. 12.
by: Harry Sayer Staff Writer

Brian Wigglesworth is typically overseeing the many moving pieces that go into a successful Siesta Key Crystal Classic. 

It's an annual tradition in Siesta Key that draws thousands of visitors to admire the intricate creations created by master sand sculptors. Tourism officials reported that in 2019 alone the event drew in 40,000 visitors with 16,000 hotel room stays to the tune of $9 million in economic impact. 

This year, Wigglesworth has a different title: competitor. The founder of the event has stepped away from managerial responsibilities for the first time since founding the competition in 2010.

24 competitors will take part of this year's competition. Sculptors start their works on Thursday with the competition opening to the public on Friday so people can see more developed creations. Judging and subsequent awards take place noon on Sunday. 

"(Sculptors) are really eager to get back to work," Wigglesworth said. "They didn't have a lot of anything going on for a year and a half."

He says there's commercial work that can pay well for sculptors, but the Crystal Classic offers them a chance to cut loose and have fun in their craft. 

"It's definitely a way for sculptors to have some enjoyment, Wigglesworth said. "They're getting to do what they want to do instead of of what someone's telling them to do. And they get to see a lot of their friends from around the world."

Oversight for the competition has been passed on to Andy Daily, Wigglesworth's partner in their sand sculpting competition and the Crystal Classic sand manager the past 8 years of the competition.

Everything within the sand garden, from figuring out artist invitations to organizing which sculptures will be finished for guests to see at the start of the competition — it's all Daily's to figure out. 

"It's quite a task juggling all the artists (but) we have a great group of people out here," Daily said. 

"Andy's the best person to (be sand coordinator)," Wigglesworth said.  "I'll be there to give advice and help him through it."

Three sculptors arrived a few days early to help Wigglesworth and Daily to prepare the event space on Siesta Key Beach. Rain and inclement weather have sporadically hit the sand sculptures that they've been slowly forming, so the duo have often had to return to the space to rework the creations. 

The competition typically has many contestants hailing from Europe, but COVID made it harder to bring in international figures.

As such, Wigglesworth was asked to be a competitor to help bolster the lineup. He partnered with New York artist Matt Long to participate in the duos category. 

Wigglesworth jokes he isn't as sad about the transition as he expected.

"I did it for 10 years and it was time to pass it on," Wigglesworth said. 

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