Slathering on sunscreen and darting across hot sand is a familiar memory to every Sarasotan. But for the 24 premier master sand sculptors who head to Siesta Key every year, they must erect intricate sand sculptures several feet high in less time than it takes that sunburn to fully appear. This weekend, Nov. 9-12, is the 2018 Siesta Key Crystal Classic International Sand Sculpting Competition, a four-day visual and cultural arts festival that pairs perfect weather and beautiful waves with competitive sand sculpting.
"There's a difference between you and I going out to the beach and creating a sandcastle," public relations and marketing rep Trish Ivey says. "These people actually do it for a living; they're masters."
Each year, the festival anticipates thousands of visitors, with last year's welcoming 26,000 attendees to the beach. It's a major boost to Siesta Key's economy. This year's fest features performances from local musicians with favorites such as Reverend Barry & the Funk and No Filter on its list, along with drinks in the party tent, a light display of the sculptures and more. Siesta Key Festival, Inc. is the nonprofit organization tasked with organizing the event each year, with the help of hundreds of volunteers. Ticket prices can be found online.
"A lot of people plan their vacations around it," Ivey says. "It’s just amazing what they can build out of sand and water, and the detail that comes out of it. I was out there today, with someone who had never been, and when she saw a sculpture, she said, 'That has to be fake!' and I told her, 'No, that was made here.'"
Each year, sand sculptors are given a 48-hour period, with breaks for sleep and lunch, of course, to create a sculpture. There is no theme; sculptors are given the freedom to create whatever they want. After attendees vote on which sculpture was the standout piece of the year, they have the opportunity to participate in amateur sculpting competitions or receive sand sculpting lessons. With buzz for the festival this weekend already brewing, it's clear that this competition is here to stay.
"We don't see this going anywhere," Ivey says.