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Siesta Key Friday, Nov. 10, 2017 4 months ago

Siesta Key Crystal Classic returns, this time with lights

The event is in its eighth year, and is changing things up by including a colored lights display.
by: Cassidy Alexander Staff Writer

The Siesta Key Crystal Classic is back for the eighth year, and event organizers say it’s better than ever.

The annual international festival encompasses four days of sand sculpting, live music and educational opportunities for the whole family.

New this year: the sand sculptures will be lit up with colored lights until 9 p.m. on Nov. 10 and 11, offering visitors a new perspective on the sculptures. It’s something Maria Bankemper, the event manager, said has been in the works for several years.

“It should be a spectacular display under the stars,” she said. Bankemper has helped organize the event each year since it got started in 2010, and has seen it grow.

From expanding the number of vendors present, to adding live music and educational components, to being able to accept credit cards — each year the Crystal Classic happens is better than the last, she said.

The main event is a competition is between 12 teams with two artists each, who spend 24 hours overall creating their sculptures. They compete for prize money and bragging rights.

“It’s a community event of the visual and ephemeral art — because it is of course only temporary,” Bankemper said. “Pictures are great, but if you’re not looking at it up close, you can’t really appreciate it.”

If you’re feeling creative, there’s an amateur contest on Saturday in which anyone can compete. And if you want to see more masters at work, check out Quick Sand, a speed-sculpting contest that spans Friday to Sunday.

Beyond competitions, there will be how-to demonstrations of sand sculpting.  

The extended hours on Friday and Saturday, through 9 p.m., give visitors a chance to check out the party tent, complete with a 60-foot bar, and even more live music, including bands such as Kettle Fish, Reverend Barry and the Funktastic Soul, One Night Rodeo and several others.

About 45,000 people are expected to attend the event from Friday, Nov. 10 to Monday, Nov. 13, and 65% of those attendees are expected to be from out of town, Bankemper said. Last year, she said the Crystal Classic had more than an $8 million economic effect on the area.

“This is my eighth year as event chair,” Bankemper said. “Every year I am in awe. It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve seen it.”

For a full schedule of events and more information, visit the event website at

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