Adventures in sand

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In the mind of a former New York teacher, Labour Day weekend means only one thing…back to school. Since this September baby is also born around the same time and lived in Long Beach where that Monday is the unofficial close of the summer season – it already means something else. And then, this same girl moved west and now, Labor Day weekend also signifies the USA Sand Sculpting Competition held annually in San Diego, California. This year, I not only got to attend, but spent the first day of the event volunteering and learning some of what goes on to make those incredible pieces of three dimensional artwork come alive.

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As part of the Padres Volunteer Team, I showed up early for the first shift and wound up staying for two. Ticket booths were set up, customer service (where I stayed for the day) developed in order to check in media, entertainers and sculptors and the gates opened to welcome guests of all ages. From this side of the fence, I got to witness a little of the magic of events – the magic I so adore. I met the owners of the entire event, the public relations team, the event manager and her team as well as the countless artists, vendors and sculptors around who the event revolves. Food trucks opened, music blared, vendors hawked, sculptors created, bloggers blogged, people volunteered and visitors popped in an out to awe the spectacles being created right before their very eyes.

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The competition lasts four days. Beginning a few days earlier, the masters show up and begin their creations. Concepts had been designed, teams secured, tools readied and sunscreen applied as these masters of sand set out to carve some of the coolest creations you’ve ever seen. Internationals and locals, professionals and amateurs, sculptors and dreamers and full on sand lovers meet at the pier in San Diego once a year to share their love and create wonder and dreams out of sand. The amateurs are not really amateurs and the masters’ creations far surpass whatever that actual word means. They come from places far and wide but all share the same love. The winner of almost every award from last year was back creating again. Last year’s director of sand was, this year, in the center of the sculpting action. And San Diego’s own, Sand Castle Man ditched his daily spot in front of Coronado’s Hotel Del to spend the weekend sharing his talents with all who entered.

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Even the vendors got in on the sand creations. Cansu Bulgu, an artist inspired to create works with sand, shared her talents and creations with competition goers all weekend. Born in Turkey, this business professional turned visionary artist creates intuitive drawings in sand, photographs them, adds colour and through a meditative process comes up with an end result filled with wonder, magic and love of nature. She wowed passersby with her artwork as well as performing a live meditative sand demonstration onsite. Through her creations, she shows another way for sand to be a part of our everyday lives.

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From delicious food truck delicacies of fish tacos to funnel cakes and entertainment galore, the sand sculpting competition kept guests entertained from dawn to dusk. At the end of the day, guests and sculptors alike are all winners. Incredible three dimensional artwork is crafted, photos are taken, and there’s always time for kids to play in the sand. Volunteers and vendors, sculptors and sand lovers, workers and wanderers and those who own the show all pitch in to make this four day event a huge success. Perhaps the next time you take that pail and shovel to help build a fantastic creation by the sea, you’ll remember the magic and possibilities you witnessed at this phenomenal annual event. See you on the pier next September!

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