|FIFTEEN YEARS OF FUN!
by sandy feet
The other day Amazin' Walter and I were discussing plans for the upcoming SPI Sand Castle Days competition when something really struck us -- the 15th annual stuff. Have we really done this 15 times? So much has changed in those years - on SPI, in the world in general and in the world of sand sculpture in particular. Near as we can figure, we are the only people on the Island who have been actively involved in each and every SPI Sand Castle Days that has ever occurred, and we wish we had done a better job of documenting all of them, instead of just the past seven years archived on the event website.
This caused me to think of some memorable contests of years past:
2001 - Notable because it occurred while the bridge was down and we were very concerned its efffect on the crowd. Fortunately, a very large number of folks braved the long ferry lines to watch - and participate - in the event, and most will agree it was one of the best ever.
1999 - This was the only year we did not have a "masters" category due to funding cutbacks. The amateur contest drew plenty of participants, but popular demand brought the Masters back in 2000.
1997 - Was very nearly a disaster when a nasty bloom of redtide threatened to sideline the whole event. (Check out the photos of the Sons of the Beach wearing surgical masks as we start up work on the demo sculpture!) When the redtide disappeared the very same day that the masters started carving it could be considered nothing less than a bona fide miracle.
Prior to 1996 - the first year that I documented the contest on the web - I can only summon up vague memories and a few disorganized photos of the contests. I have been going through some of those old pictures and am in the process of posting some of the best of them in a new "Archives" section of the event website -- so be sure and stop by to take a stroll down memory lane.
One year that I will never forget was the first time we added a "masters" category -- could it really have been way back in 1989? and the storm of controversy generated by the judging results which was fuelled by the fact that one of the judges had been involved in sponsorship (through the Baptist church) of the winning sculptor, and his son had participated as one of the sculptor's helpers (back when we allowed such things.) The resulting brew-ha-ha forever changed the way the SPI masters contest is judged.
Judging has always been a problem. Unlike other competitive events - truly objective criteria just don't apply -- and a majority of sand sculptors agree that the only people fairly equipped to judge these kind of contests are... other sand sculptors. Over the past three years, the SPI masters category has been a "self-judged" contest with no published criteria; the sculptors judge every piece but their own. While this system can prove to be a recipe for disaster - in other self-judged contests, certain sculptors have been accused of maliciously down-grading their competitors in an attempt to artificially raise their own scores - it has worked well for us here thus far.
I particularly like the self-judging model, as it allows me to compete in an event that I also help organize. Of course - the "peoples choice" award is a whole other ball of wax. Since some may feel that I have an unfair "home team advantage," the local PC contest has evolved into a fun money-maker for the Laguna Madre Humane Society. The society members place "tip jars" at each sculptor plot, and the title (there is no prize attached) goes to the sculptor who collects the most cash - all of which goes back to the LMHS. I thank my friends and the SPI community at large for making sure that I won the PC title for the past three years, and am humbly asking for your support this year as well.
Speaking of the Humane Society, Dolores Ferrentino of of the SPI Massage Therapy Center will be back on the beach this year giving those yummy chair massages for just $1/minute -- with all proceeds again going to the LMHS. Over the years she has raised some serious bucks for this worthy cause and she is hoping to set a new record in 2002 -- thanks, Dolores, and good luck!
Sand castle Days '02 will feature a brand new attraction: arts and crafts vendors on the north deck of the Surf Motel. We have gotten tremendous response from local and visiting artisans, so be sure and come fully equipped with a fat wallet. The Texas State Championship - a duo category for serious amateurs - should prove interesting in 2002 as well, with competitors coming from as far away as Staten Island, NY in search of this coveted title.
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't thank some of the many entities that make this event possible, including our major sponsors - The SPI Convention & Visitors Bureau, Chrysler, Schlitterbahn, the Surf Motel/Boomerang Billy's, and the Bahia Mar. Also kudos to the San Marcos Suns, DJ Geoff Clifton, the members of the Sand Castle Days Committee (especially Laurie Gaudi, who pulls it all together), our visiting master sculptors, and all the unsung volunteers who work so hard to keep things running smoothly.
A lot of folks have put in some long hours to make this event happen; now it is up to you to come on out and enjoy it. See you on the beach!
There are five (5) ways to submit your questions/comments for future Ask Sandy columns: In person; by phone (761-6222) or fax (761-8930); the US Postal System (box 2694,spi,78597) and E-mail: (firstname.lastname@example.org). Visit my web-site (http://spionline.com/) for tips on sandcastling, contest info, recent Ask Sandy columns, and my reviews of local businesses.
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