It’s that time of year again. The Quality Foods Sand Sculpting Competition and Exhibition in Parksville opens to the public at 2 p.m. on Friday, July 12.
This year, 29 international master sculptors will face off in a 30-hour competition that ends with an awards ceremony at 5:30 p.m. on July 14.
Last year saw 125,908 people come through the gates during the course of the exhibition. This year, event manager Wendy Sears hopes to bring that number up to 150,000.
“This is probably Parksville’s signature event. I’d say it’s probably the largest-attended event on Vancouver Island, just because of the length of time it runs,” said Sears.
The exhibition will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day until Aug. 18.
Entry is by a suggested donation of $4 per person.
The theme of this year’s competition is ‘Myths and Legends’.
Other than the theme, the specifics of what the sculptors will create is a mystery until the event is in motion. Sears says that the theme is purposefully broad to allow for a range of interpretations.
“They have to incorporate the theme into their sculpture. That’s really the only thing we ask. We don’t know what they’re doing until they do it,” she said.
Sears says the chance to compete in Parksville is highly sought-after by international sculptors. This year, the Beach Festival will host sculptors from Japan, the United States, the Netherlands, Russia, Mexico and Canada.
Parksville local David Kaube is set to compete again this year. There will also be sculptors from Victoria, the Lower Mainland, and the Interior.
Sears says the event helps puts Parksville on the map.
“When you go outside of Parksville and you say ‘Parksville’, what do people say? ‘Sandcastles’. Everybody associates Parksville with this event,” said Sears. “We’ve really gone away from sandcastles… it’s actually sculptures, it really is sand art. These people are master sculptors.”
The competition is an official qualifier for the World Championship of Sand Sculpting. Sears says that this event has been a breeding ground for sculptors who have gone on to be big deals in the sand sculpting world.
“A lot of the sculptors that are now sculpting professionally actually came out of that,” said Sears. “They started on the beaches of Parksville, White Rock sculpting the sand for fun, loved it, and now they’re artists.”
Sculptors will compete solo or as duos. Each duo team receives 15 yards of sand and each solo competitor receives 10 yards.
The average weight of a yard of sand varies, but it’s somewhere in the neighbourhood of 2,600 to 3,000 pounds. Sears says the festival trucks in more than 350 yards of sand.
“Imagine 12 dump trucks with trailers – that’s how much sand we need,” said Sears.
This year, the sand was sourced from a pit in Campbell River. It’s not easy to find the right stuff – most sand available for purchase has already been washed. For sculpting, the right sand needs to still be sticky with silt, but filtered through to ensure there aren’t any rocks or sticks.
“I know a lot more about sand now than I thought I would ever need to know,” said Sears with a laugh.
In addition to the competition and exhibition, Beach Festival has planned a number of events to keep locals and tourists entertained all summer long.
There will be live music every Friday and Saturday evening during the festival. Bands will play from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. under the main picnic shelter in community park.
There is also a Art in the Park event scheduled for July 27-28. More than 70 artisans from Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands will be selling their creations at the Parksville Community Park next to the tennis courts.
For more information, visit www.parksvillebeachfest.ca.