Joris Kivits, who was born in the Netherlands, took a Zen-like approach in capturing top honors in the singles division of the 26th annual American Sand Sculpting Championships on the beachfront of the Holiday Inn on Fort Myers Beach on Sunday.
That day, 16 master sculptors representing 10 countries and nine U.S. states finished carving out their individual masterpieces. Medals were given out to the top four places. Kivits, who also picked up the coveted Sculptors' Choice medal, explained the reasoning for his art that he titled "Slide & go with the flow."
"It's about the fabric of life where people are at a higher peak or a lower status, like the way life goes," he said. "There is more of a Zen feel with these people in their positions. If you find the right balance in life, then you can go with the flow."
Justin Gordan's sculpture "Twas the night before Christmas, the referee was a mouse" was awarded second place, while Brian Turnbough (last year's winner) took third place with "Mined" and Michel Lepire collected fourth with "Christmas Fantasy."
Noted as the largest sand sculpting competition in Florida, the 26th annual American Sand Sculpting Championships featured a "winter wonderland" theme. This year's cast of master sculptors has collected more than 130 medals combined and world champion honors during their many years crafting their trade.
Kivits, who stated it was his second time competing in the American championships, finds the Beach sugar sand hard to carve and prefers "flux" sand because of the square grain. He has only been sculpting since 2006.
"This sand is beach sand, so it's always more difficult to sculpt," he said. "The flux sand builds up better because it's stronger and has clay in it."
The professional art along with sand sculpting demonstrations, chain saw art, Quick Sand contests and Flying Colors paintings drew a great crowd to the Sunday event. People have steadily arrived, viewed the sculptures, taken in a show or two and left happily since the festival opened its gates Friday morning. There is even a Kids Activity Area to soothe the little ones.
"We are delighted to see so many people turn out for our event today," said Greater Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce President Bud Nocera. "Next weekend we are going to be having a doubles competition, and all week in between there are going to be events here on the beach."
This is the first time in its history that the American Championships will host both singles and doubles divisions. Nocera applauded the local organizations responsible for presenting and managing the event this year.
Working in partnership with the Beach Chamber is Big C Events, Pinchers Crab Shack, the Holiday Inn Fort Myers Beach and The Sand Lovers.
Emcee Bill Knight, co-owner of The Sand Lovers with wife, Marianne, thanked the many sponsors and those who offered their free time.
"The sponsors are the people who supported this event and made it happen," he said. "But most importantly, we thank the work of our volunteers."
Besides the master sculptors competition, the festival also featured an amateur contest that day. Those awards were presented at the ceremony.
In the children's category (age 9-12), Blaydon Bolduc took first place to make it five top honors in two years for the child who first began the craft after watching "Amazing" Walter McDonald build arches. In the family/groups category, Team Sawfish placed first with "Save the saw tooth shark." In the adult solo competition, Mark Magda was awarded first place for his "Cathedral" sculpture.
The American Championships is one of the longest running sand sculpting competitions in the world. The festival continues throughout the rest of the week -yes, it will be open on Thanksgiving Day- and into the weekend from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. This Sunday, four teams of two master sculptors will compete in the doubles division. In all, more than 1,000 tons of sand will be piled and sculpted before festival completion.
For a full schedule of the remaining daily events and information, go to the event site at www.fmbsandsculpting.com