These Castles Get Sanding Ovations in Treasure Island
Treasure Island brings in tons of a very special sand for the Sanding Ovations Master’s Cup invitational sand sculpting competition and music fest that runs through Sunday (Nov. 20).
By SHELLY STECK-REALE, Correspondent, TB Reporter
TREASURE ISLAND – While Florida’s northern neighbors brace themselves for the icy winter weather, thousands of Tampa Bay natives and tourists will be soaking up the sun this weekend at Sanding Ovations, the eighth annual master’s cup sand sculpting competition and music festival on Treasure Island.
Ten world class artists – a cast of characters from across the globe all converging on the beach by invitation – will compete. Flags from each artist’s country flank the event venue. They come from Canada, Ireland, Singapore, the Netherlands and beyond. Each contestant is equipped with only their hands, a few tools, and, of course, sand.
“We’ve brought in one-hundred and fifty tons of DEP-approved, snow-white sand from Homestead,” said Dan Doubleday, Sanding Ovations owner and organizer. “And, you’ll never guess how it’s made.”
Turns out, Parrot fish feed on the seaweed and polyps found amongst Florida’s coral reefs. As they nibble on their meal, they inadvertently take in miniscule particles of the reef itself. Unable to metabolize these tiny grains, they are “pooped” out and collect on the ocean floor, building up over time. The “poop” is then quarried for construction and – in the case of these artists – the creation of breathtaking masterpieces.
Each competitor gets about 15 tons of sand. Wooden forms are erected, sand is added, sprayed with water, then compacted tightly down. The process is repeated, one form on top of the other, until the height, width, and depth specified by each artist is reached. When the wooden forms are removed, a solid block of sand is left standing, waiting for, as Michelangelo mused, the sculptor to discover the statue inside.
The artists have three days to create their works, which take imagination, steady hands and 200 gallons of water each. To prevent tools from rusting and pitting during the 32 hours of delicate sculpting, fresh water is used instead of seawater.
Each sculpture is judged based on six criteria: the WOW factor, quality, use of sand, difficulty, originality, and artistic impression.
As with other art forms, originality and artistic impression often come with a message. Artist Jobi Bouchard, three-time first place winner from Montreal, calls his piece “Connect” because it is inspired by “the connections we all have with one another.”
This year’s creation is much tamer than last year’s entry, which showcased a mosquito atop a giant set of testicles. The message of that sculpture, Bouchard explained, was that “not every problem should be solved by violence.”
After the event ends, each work will be sprayed with a coating made of diluted Elmer’s glue to slow the erosion process, allowing the sculptures to remain for beachgoers to enjoy until after the New Year. After that, a tractor will demolish the sculptures, returning the sand to the tides.
Cathy Hayduke, Treasure Island recreation director, estimates 20,000 to 25,000 spectators are expected to come watch the sculpting and enjoy live music, food, and festivities during the four-day competition, which began Wednesday.
Sanding Ovations admission is free. The event runs through Sunday (Nov. 20). An awards ceremony is scheduled for 7 p.m. Saturday. Winners will get a share of more than $12,000 in cash prizes. A fireworks show will follow the awards ceremony.
Parking is available at 104th, 105th and 106th avenues and Gulf Boulevard. There is $5 parking and shuttle at Treasure Bay, 10315 Paradise Blvd.
For information about Treasure Island, go to mytreasureisland.com.
For a TB Reporter video of the sculptors at work, go to facebook.com/tampabayreporter.
Photos of Sanding Ovations sculptors at work by TB Reporter correspondent Shelly Steck-Reale.
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