Late November and beachfront sand sculptures have become a synonymous couple over the years on Fort Myers Beach.
This year is no different with the arrival of the 27th annual American Sand Sculpting Championship for a 10-day festival from this Friday (Nov. 22) through Sunday, Dec. 1. The event will again be held on the south end of the island at Wyndham Garden Hotel (formerly Holiday Inn) located at 6890 Estero Blvd.
Professional master sculptors -some of the world's best- will compete against each other during the first weekend in the solo division, then team up to compete in the doubles division the following weekend. In between, the average spectator will get to enjoy many activities. Check out the list below.
Netherlands native Joris Kivits captured top honors in the solos division with “Slide & go with the flow” last year, but is not one of the competing sculptors this year.
The championship festival is being billed as the largest sand sculpting event in the state of Florida. Big C Events, Pinchers Crab Shack and The Sand Lovers will once again manage the event in coordination with the Greater Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce.
"The sand sculpting competition on Fort Myers Beach has grown into one of the largest signature events in Southwest Florida," said FMB Chamber President Bud Nocera. "It offers breathtaking sand sculptures on a large scale by 16 of the most talented sand artists in the world."
Defending Masters Solo Champion, Joris Kivits, a native of the Netherlands, will not be competing on the Beach this year, but some familiar names ("Amazin" Walter McDonald, Carl Jara, Brett Stocker) will be among the 16 professionals competing for the 2013 American singles title.
The festival will also feature the Advanced Amateur "Florida State Championships" with 10 competitors (most ever) on Dec. 1, and a family-friendly amateur competition (Nov. 24) that is open to all ages.
Day-pass tickets are just $5 for adults and children 5 and older, while children age 4 and under enter the gated area for free. Three-day passes will also be available for only $12.
The Southeastern Tourism Society recognized the American Sand Sculpting Championship as a top 20 event of the entire southeastern United States. At 27 years old, it is one of the longest running sand sculpting competitions in the world.
It extends over a major holiday weekend.
"The festival features amazing sand sculptures, great food, entertainment and a large crafts market. It's a great way to spend time with your family over the Thanksgiving holiday," said Nocera."
Event organizers have added the "Sand Shuffle," a passport program with five participating locations throughout the area including Seminole Casino of Immokalee, Edison & Ford Winter Estates, DiamondHead Beach Resort, Fish-Tale Marina and the Wyndham Garden Hotel Fort Myers Beach. Each location will have two tons of sand sculpture sculpted by one of the artists prior to the event. When visitors arrive at each location, they cannot only get their passport stamped at the designated area, but are encouraged to take photos with the Sand Sculptures and share on Facebook and Instagram at #sandshuffle.
Kids can also take part in the Sand Shuffle Scavenger Hunt. With each sculpture there is a question to answer. Once visitors have visited at least three of the five sand sculptures and had their passport stamped or scavenger hunt question answered correctly, they'll be eligible to enter the drawings for great prize giveaways from our participating Sand Shuffle Partners. To enter, completed passports can be brought to the main entrance of the 2013 American Sand Sculpting Championships.
On Friday evening, Nov. 22, Junkanoos on the Beach will host a special luau to kick-off the festival's first day of beachfront action.
Attendees are encouraged to arrive from the south in order to avoid traffic congestion. Event directors have coordinated a revolving bus system to transport attendees from the Lover's Key State Park parking area to the site.
Here is a list of interactive activities for guests to partake in:
- Make-A-Wish Day On Friday, Nov. 22, 20 percent of ticket sale proceeds being donated to the organization.
- 30 Sand Sculptures - View 30 sand sculptures, more than 1,000 tons of sand will be sculpted, including one huge 350-ton sand sculpture
- Quick Sand Speed Sculpting - Watch two sculptors face off in a 10-minute sculpt off.
They sculpt a subject the audience chooses and the audience chooses the winner.
- Sand Sculpting Demonstrations and Lessons Learn the tricks of the master sculptors.
- Amateur Contest Open to anyone and all levels of sculptors, try your hand at sand sculpting.
- State Championships A competition between an advanced amateur sand sculptor can prove their abilities and get one step closer to being accepted as a master sculptor.
- Photo Opportunity Sculptures Become part of the art, step into the sculpture and have your photo taken.
- Chainsaw Art with Rod Green Master chainsaw artist and former lumberjack will create works of art from logs in minutes.
- Sand Vendor Village More than 50 vendors from around the country offer a great selection of food, beverages, specialty retail and arts and crafts.
- Live music by Canadian recording artist Nick Beauregard - listen to his inspirational music throughout the event.
- Kids area - many activities available for kids including bounce houses, a rock climbing wall, bungee jump simulator and more.