Sandy Lane Pupils Get Lost in ‘FantaSea’ Land at Sugar Sand Festival
By SHELLY STECK REALE, Correspondent, TB Reporter
Pupils from Sandy Lane Elementary spent part of Thursday morning at the Sugar Sand Festival on Clearwater Beach. Some proceeds from the festival benefit the school.
CLEARWATER BEACH – “The mermaid! The mermaid!”
The art critics from Sandy Lane Elementary were all in agreement about their favorite sculpture. And, who better to appreciate the whimsy of the sculptures at the Fifth Annual Pier 60 Sugar Sand Festival than a group of giggling elementary school pupils bubbling with excitement over their field trip to the Clearwater Beach venue?
The Sugar Sand Festival is a colossal sand sculpture event that includes concerts, fireworks, demonstrations, artisans and crafters that brings more than entertainment to the Tampa Bay community. It shares a message of community engagement and support.
Part of this 10-day event includes the “Your change will help create change,” a master sand sculpture competition that raises funds to benefit Sandy Lane Elementary School, 1360 Sandy Lane in Clearwater.
“Sandy Lane Elementary is a Title One school; a school that serves a high percentage of low-income or below poverty level families,” said Lisa Chandler, Sugar Sand Festival event coordinator. “We love them, and well, we’ve just adopted them.”
Visitors to the event toss their loose pennies, nickels, or dimes into coin jars to vote for their favorite sculpture.The master sculptor with the most coins wins the $6,000 purse. But the real winners are the kids at Sandy Lane. All the money collected goes directly to the school.
“The first year we raised a little over $2,500. Last year it grew to $4,000, and this year we are hoping to raise $5,000 or more,” Chandler said.
The fundraising initiative is part of the larger gallery of works that brings together 11 master sculptors from around the world. They have transformed 1,000 tons of sand into a “FantaSea” of sculptures that fill the 21,000-square-foot main tent.
The chance to support the kids at Sandy Lane has brought Elaine Fuchs, St. Petersburg, out to the event for the past three years.
“It’s a wonderful idea,” Fuchs said as she dropped a donation into a five-gallon bottle. “Plus, just look at all this. It’s fabulous!”
The event runs through Sunday (April 23), with more than 10,000 visitors expected daily. Among Thursday’s (April 20) visitors were the dozens of delighted Sandy Lane pupils accompanied by weary but equally happy chaperones.
“These kids inspire me every day,” said kindergarten teacher Caroline Pavlakos. “I wake up thinking about them and go to bed thinking of them.”
It was clear the feeling was mutual as the children swarmed around her.
When asked about the sculptures, 6-year-old Marquez began jumping up and down, unable able to contain his joy.
“My favorite was Sponge Bob,” he said. “And the mermaid!”
“The mermaid! The mermaid!” an excited chorus of little voices cheered in agreement.
Admission into the FantaSea Sugar Sand Exhibit includes a complimentary photo. Exhibit admission is $10 for adults; $8 for seniors, military, fire, police and teachers; and $6 for children 5-17. All other events surrounding exhibit are free.
For information about the event, go to sugarsandfestival.com.
Photos by Shelly Steck Reale.
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