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Carved in sand

By Staff | Nov 23, 2015

A drizzle of rain wasn’t going to dampen the party. Despite an overcast sky and a few bouts of light rain, the opening weekend of the 29th Annual American Sandsculpting Championships on Fort Myers Beach was a success.

“Mother nature was kind of trying to threaten us, but ended up playing nice,” said Marianne Knight, one of the event’s directors. “But the event has been going good so far.”

Steve Topazio, a master sculptor from Rhode Island, said a small amount of rain wasn’t a problem at all.

“A drizzle is fine; it’s actually perfect for us,” Topazio said about the opening weekend’s weather conditions. “Wind and the sun is probably the worst thing for this type of sand. After we do our carving or finish off an area, we put a glue on it, so it’s no issue.”

Bruce Phillips, a professional sculptor from San Diego, was more concerned about sea gulls affecting his abstract building sculpture as opposed to the rain.

To prevent birds from nesting at the top of his sculpture, he placed metal wires at the top of his masterpiece.

“It’s only a problem if you don’t have (the wires) and they land,” Phillips said. “Some people don’t like (the wires) because they look odd, but it’ll look worse if you don’t have the top of your sculpture in place.”

As the master sculptors spent the opening weekend crafting their pieces before judging began, the amateur sculpting contest was one of the highlights of the weekend.

Michigan natives Tom and Judy Blue worked together, creating a sandcastle and frog that won first prize competing a dozen other amateurs.

“It’s a fun thing,” Tom said about the contest. “We’re just in awe of some of the other sculptors here. I’m just flattered to be breathing the same air as some of these other people here.”

The Blues first got interested in sand sculpting over 15 years ago, when they would take their children to the beach.

“I love going to the beach, but I hate the water,” Tom exclaimed. “I got putzing around with the sand and I thought it was pretty cool.”

Amateurs had four hours to complete their sculptures, which ranged from an array of sandcastles to mermaids and even a locomotive.

“There’s always stuff you wish you could continue to work on,” Judy said about the relatively short length of time by sculpting standards. “You’re never ever done and we always want more time, but you have to just turn it in eventually.”

The sand sculpting demonstrations also drew a big crowd, as hundreds of people gathered under a party tent to learn some tricks of the trade.

While the opening weekend was never overwhelmingly packed with visitors, there was a steady stream of people checking out the event throughout the first two days.

“Friday was a nice, what we call a soft opening, for a workday,” the event organizer said. “And (Saturday) has been really good; a lot of people out.”

Bigger showcases for the second week of the 10-day event which is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day, include the Florida State Championships for advanced amateurs as well as a master doubles competition.

The doubles competition, which features five separate teams, begins on Wednesday and continues through Sunday afternoon.

The Florida State Championship, which consists of 11 amateurs from all over the country, kicks off on Friday.

Weekday events will also include live music, additional sand sculpting demos and other family activities.

For more information about the event, visit fmbsandsculpting.com.