Dear sandy feet,

There have been a couple of letters to the editor published in recent editions of the Valley Morning Star disparaging South Padre Island and suggesting a Valley-wide boycott may be in order. What do you make of this?


Personally, I see it as another manifestation of the annual post-springbreak Island backlash. We get to looking like we are having too much fun and making too much money and that can start stirring up resentment and, well... envy.

As a member of the SPI Sons of the Beach Sandcastle Wizards, I have played -- er, I mean worked, on a good share of North America's beaches.... from British Columbia to San Diego - from Atlantic City to Key West - from Chicago to Corpus Christi -- and several points in between. More recently we have been invited to crawl around in the sand of such far-flung beaches as Fujisawa, Japan and Jesolo, Italy. For media purposes, my "favorite" beach is the one I am currently working on. But - just between you and me - there's no beach like my home beach, and all other beaches I visit must necessarily be held up to the rigorous standards set by the beaches of South Padre Island.

Our beach - any beach - is its own reason for existence. With no enhancements at all it will continue to attract visitors, particularly in the summer months when the rest of the Rio Grande Valley is brutally hot. A trip to the beach is not a political statement - it is a survival technique for dealing with the climate. The beach is a place you can play outside all day long without suffering heat stroke. It is a place to cogitate and meditate and speculate and become inspired... a place to grow closer with your family and friends and to share experiences you will remember the rest of your life.

The town of SPI exists to make the beach visitor's stay more pleasant. If you want undeveloped beach, we've got a bunch of it. But eventually you are going to want a shower, a good meal and a cocktail - we've got those too, as well as wind surfers and wave riders and parasails and sandcastle lessons and lots of other fun things that you cannot do anywhere else in the valley.

We value our visitors from up the valley and both sides of the border. We line up big-name concerts with your musical preferences in mind. Our restaurants and clubs cheerfully cater to your taste buds. Our local entrepreneurs are constantly looking for new toys, gift items and t-shirt designs that will please you. And we pick up the trash you leave behind.

Sure our motivation is not totally altruistic - everyone needs to make a living somehow. But when the Islanders need cars, appliances and other items not found locally, we take our business to Brownsville, Harlingen and McAllen. When people from these cities need a cool gulf breeze, a splash in the surf, and other experiences they can't find locally, they come here. It is counter-productive for local communities to squabble amongst ourselves - our economies are bound together and everyone benefits if we cooperate and work together.

I would not presume to speak for all the people who live here, but I think many of them would agree with me when I say this: If you don't enjoy the sand and the surf, don't come here. If you want to spend more money to visit some other beach, that is fine too. This place isn't for everyone - thank goodness - because some of us are not eager to see SPI evolve into another Miami Beach. But search as you may, you will not find a more beautiful beach anywhere, nor one inhabited by friendlier people more eager to make your stay enjoyable. This I know for a fact.


Hey sandy feet!

What's this we hear about an upcoming castle project in Italy?

I am delighted you asked! This summer I am very much looking forward to representing the Island, Texas and indeed the whole US of A at Italy's first-ever international competition, scheduled for June 22-28. Jesolo, located on the Adriatic Sea near Venice, is Italy's second largest beach resort and, as you may imagine, I am really excited about the opportunity to play on a new beach and see the wonders that may be found in the neighborhood.

I will of course be flying all three flags (U.S., Texas and SPI) and my goal is to build a better sandcastle and have more fun than any other sculptor there - while taking my duties seriously as a good-will ambassador for South Padre Island.

As one of five invited international competitors, a portion of my expenses will be picked up by the contest organizers. However, this little excursion to Europe is still going to set me back a fair chunk of dough -- so if you see me on the beach doing a practice/demonstration castle (weekends at Boomies are a good bet) drop some change in my tip jar and let me know I have the Island's support. As always, it will be much appreciated.

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: ( Visit my web-site ( for tips on sandcastling, contest info, recent Ask Sandy columns, and my reviews of local businesses.

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