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Sand Castle Days FAQ

The 14th annual Sand Castle Days Festival (Oct. 18-20 on Boomerang Billy's Beach) will soon be here and island residents and visitors will be treated to the best show of sand sculpture ever seen in these parts. We are expecting some 17 master sculptors this year - more than any year before and many of whom are current or former world champions.

The SPI contest has a well-deserved reputation for giving the visiting sculptors one of their friendliest and most appreciative audiences. Now we want to make you the most well-informed as well. This week's column focuses on the most commonly asked sand sculpture questions and their answers. The sculptors will appreciate not having to answer the same questions over and over, and you will be able to impress everyone with your knowledge and insights. Read on and educate thyself:

How do they make the sand stick together?

This is the most often-asked queston and it is a good one. The secret is compression. If you are able to stop by on Thurs. (10/18) you will see the sculptors shoveling sand fast and furious into big cylindrical forms of roofing felt held together with c-clamps. When they get a 3-5 inch layer of loose sand, they will pour in buckets of water and then pound the heck out of it with some form of tamper -- layer upon layer until the form is filled. Then they will put another - slightly smaller - form on top of the first, "wedding-caking" them up until they reach the desired height. They carve from the top and peel off the forms as they go down - there is no internal support.
If it sounds like back breaking labor, that is because it is.

Are any additives used? What is that stuff they spray on the sculpture?

Nothing is added to the sand to make it firmer. However, this is a 3-day contest and we want to make sure everything is still standing at judging time, so we furnish the sculptors with sprayers filled with diluted Elmer's (white) glue. They will spray this mixture on the carved surfaces as they work their way down. This puts a skin on the sculpture surface, preventing it from drying out as fast as it would otherwise and protecting the detail from wind and rain. This glue is non-toxic and bio-degradable so it does not pollute the beach.

Is this a timed event?

The sculptors have 25 hours over three days to do their best work. They are vying for some of the largest prize money offered by any solo contest in the world - $2000, 1st; $1250, 2nd; $750, 3rd and $500, 4th. By offering such an attractive prize package (not to mention great sand, weather and friendly locals), we are able to attract some of the most talented sculptors in the US and Canada.

Do the sculptors plan their pieces in advance?

Some work from sketches, some work from plaster or clay models. Some make it up as they go.

Can I talk to the sculptors while they are working?

Most will be happy to answer a question or two, but please keep in mind that they are on the clock and time spent chatting means less time carving. Several of them will be arriving early and helping out the Sons of the Beach on the demo sculpture (Mon. - Wed.) and this is great time to come out to Boomies and meet them in a more relaxed environment.
On a related note: Most sculptors bring photo albums of sculptures they have built in the past that you are welcome to peruse.

Can I vote for my favorite sculpture?

Yes! On Sat., 10/20, we will place a "tip jar" near each plot where you will be able to vote for your favorite sculpture with your spare change. All money collected will go to benefit the Laguna Madre Humane Society.

Will there be other activities on the beach?

We are expecting a kite flying exhibition - courtesy of B&S Kites - and Dolores Ferrentino of the Massage Therapy Center will be giving chair massages for $1/minute with proceeds - again - going to the Humane Society. Geoff Clifton will be cranking out the tunes and Boomerang Billy's will be cranking out beer, cocktails and munchies.

Can I enter the contest?

Absolutely! Open categories on Sat. include Youth (elementary and secondary); Family/Adult Teams and the Texas State Championship - a doubles event for serious amateurs. Registration starts at 8 AM, with a free sand castle clinic running from 9-10:30.

Will you be participating in the contest this year?

I will once again be representing SPI at this year's competition and if you are truly a friend of mine you will come out and stuff my jar with big bucks -- regardless of the quality of my sculpture (though rest assured I plan to do my best work ever!)

For all the updates on this event and the people who will be participating in it, please surf to www.sandcastledays.com.

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: (sandyfeet@unlitter.com). 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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