By Jess Winans
U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge & Dimensional Art Exposition
What were 300 tons of sand, 63 world master sculptors and an estimated 9,000 spectators doing on the Broadway Pier during Labor Day weekend?
Getting their sand on.
On Aug. 31 through Sept. 3, more than five dozen world master sand sculptors flooded the Broadway Pier for the seventh annual U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge & Dimensional Art Exposition.
Each year, as part of the competition, event organizers Gordon and Joyce Summer fly in world master sand sculptors to sculpt works of art using a special type of sand with clay content from a quarry.
The world master sculptors competed for more than $60,000 in award money and grand prize, second-place and third-place awards. They also competed for the People’s Choice award, where attendees voted for their favorites, and the Sculptor’s Choice award, where participating sculptors voted.
In addition to the world master sculptors, the Cool California Carvers class also competed. The class consists of seven teams of three California-based sand sculptors. This group competed for first-, second- and third-place prizes, and each team member also voted on the seven group sculptures.
As part of The Dimensional Art Exhibition, there were more than 1,000 original works of art available for purchase including handmade clothing, wall art and jewelry.
The event was family friendly, including a kids zone with rides, sandcastle-building lessons by professional artists, over a dozen gourmet food trucks, a beer and wine garden and live entertainment including various tribute bands (Beatles, Elvis, Beach Boys, Journey) and other classic rock and blues bands.
To embody this year’s theme of celebration, sculptors used fine lines, intricate details and meticulous sand-sculpting techniques to produce huge, larger-than-life works of art.
“I like the feeling and the atmosphere,” said Italian world master sculptor Leonardo Ugolini, who has been sculpting for the last 28 years. “We are like a big family and it’s nice to see the ideas of other sculptors.”
This year, Ugolini sculpted a little out of the theme.
“It’s very funny because the theme for everybody is celebration, but my English is so terrible that I didn’t know exactly the spelling of celebration,” he said, “I started thinking and I wrote ‘cerebral’, so I made a brain. The title of this is ‘Cerebralization.’”
To qualify to compete in this event, sculptors must have won an award or exhibition within the past five years.
Other returning sculptors this year included Ilya Filimontsev from Russia (Grand Prize winner in 2016), Melineige BeauRegard from Canada (Grand Prize winner in 2015 and winner of multiple other awards in 2014, 2015, and 2016), Rusty Croft from Carmel, CA (Grand Prize winner in 2012 and co-host of the Travel Channel’s “Sand Masters” series), Fergus Mulvany from Ireland (second-place prize winner in 2016 and winner of several other awards), Thomas Koet from Australia (third prize winner in 2016), and Sue McGrew from Tacoma, WA (second-place prize winner 2014 and “Sand Masters” TV personality).
New sculptors this year included Jihoon Choi from South Korea and Abram Waterman from Prince Edward Island, Canada.
Also new this year were decorative lights inside of the Port Pavilion, the ability to vote electronically for the People’s Choice awards, an expanded kids zone with rides like European Bungie and Bubble Fun and the ability to meet the professional sand sculptors and learn how to build a sandcastle.
“We just wanted to come up with something a little different, a little more modern and up to date,” said Joyce Summer, co-founder and co-event organizer. “We thought it would be a lot of fun to light up the sculptures and the pier and landing too.”
A portion of the proceeds from the seventh annual U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge & Dimensional Art Exposition will to go charities, such as Arts for Learning, The San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts, It’s All About the Kids Foundation, and Maritime Museum kids educational programs.
This year, Gordon and Joyce added E3 Civic High to their list of beneficiaries, “Gordon and I have lived Downtown for 26 years and have been very involved,” Joyce said. “We thought it would be nice to approach different schools this year, and we chose E3.”
In the World Master category, “Victory,” sculpted by Thomas Koet, took home the Grand Prize, “Existential Paradox” by Rusty Croft took home the second place and sculptors choice awards, “Liberation” by Dan Belcher took home the third-place award and “To Have and To Hold” by Abe Waterman won the People’s Choice award.
In the team category, the IB Posse won the Grand Prize for their nameless piece, the Sand Squirrels won second place for “Love Notes” and Archisand won third place for “Peace in our Hands.”
For more information about the competition and The Dimensional Art Exposition, visit ussandsculpting.com.
—Jess Winans can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org