The annual sand sculpting competition was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns.
The 11th annual Siesta Key Crystal Classic International Sand Sculpting Festival, which each year brings thousands of visitors to the key, has been canceled.
The Siesta Key Chamber Board of Directors had until Sept. 9 to make a decision before leaders had to begin signing contracts, writing checks and making travel arrangements for the artists.
Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce member Mark Smith said the chamber decided to cancel due to COVID-19. Leaders didn’t want to endanger the public or incur expenses they might not be able to recover.
The event costs about $285,000 to put on, and last year, with colder than normal weather throughout the weekend of the event, the chamber barely broke even.
“If we were to commit to everything and then it not happen, it could be a really big hit,” Smith said.
The Crystal Classic was set for Nov. 13-16 as a way to bring tourists to the key in a historically slow time of the year. Around 65,000 people attended the event last year, which Smith said would be hard to regulate.
Staff of the Florida Department of Health in Sarasota said precautions, such as limiting the number of people in the event and enforcing social distancing, would need to be taken.
“It’s near impossible to control people at the beach,” Smith said. “It’s counterproductive. People go to the beach to have a good time, not to be told what to do.”
Last year, the chamber gave $10,000 to the Ringing School of Art & Design for scholarships, which it still hopes to do this year.
The classic is not the first event the chamber has had to cancel this year, however. It also had to cancel its Easter Egg Hunt. Due to the lost events, the chamber will have to dig into its savings.
“It’s just been an awful year with our economy and businesses not being able to fully reopen,” Smith said. “We’ll just have to bite the bullet like everybody else.”
Though Smith said the cancellation is a let-down, the chamber is looking forward to next year’s classic, which is scheduled for Nov. 12-15.
“It’s disappointing, but this is the year of disappointments,” Smith said.