Like countless other events in 2020, last year’s Siesta Key Crystal Classic sand sculpting competition was canceled because of the Covid-19 pandemic. But it’s washing up on our shores again Nov. 12-15, when both professional and amateur sand artists will wow visitors with their outrageous and improbable designs. Tickets cost $5-$30 and can be purchased here.
Stars of the Show
Overall, the event will draw 24 international master artists in sand sculpting. Eight will compete in the solo competition, while 16 others will partner up to compete as duos. The competition is timed, meaning the teams have 24 hours before the gates open on Friday, Nov. 12, to work on their designs. The winner, picked by a professional committee, will be named on Sunday, Nov. 14. Attendees can also vote for their favorites, and a people’s choice winner will be crowned.
Want to try your hand at sand sculpting? Enter the amateur competition. There will be 25 reserved plots for hobbyists. Registration costs $10-$25 and is first-come, first-served.
While the prize amounts for the professionals had not been set at press time, you can expect more than $16,000 to be distributed to different winners this year. Amateur prizes will fetch you $25-$75, depending on the category.
The event is organized by the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce, which is expecting between 20,000 and 40,000 attendees, depending on the weather.
Since 2020’s competition was canceled, two of 2019’s winners have a chance to go back-to-back this year. Texas’ Walter McDonald won the duo competition in 2019 with Canada’s Abe Waterman, thanks to their towering castle, dubbed “Mine Is Bigger Than Yours.” This year, McDonald, who has competed in places as far flung as China and Qatar, is sculpting solo. John Gowdy, from Castelfranco, Italy, won the 2019 solo competition with “Sand Man Rises.” This year, Gowdy is teaming up with his wife, Laura Cimador Gowdy.
On Saturday, Nov. 13, the sculpture area will stay open until 9 p.m., and colored lights will be projected onto the sculptures. According to Siesta Key Chamber executive director Ann Frescura, the colorful lights shining on Siesta’s brilliant white sand add “a whole other dimension” to the works.
Outside of the competition area, the Vendor Village will include food trailers and people selling a variety of goods, and the Barefoot Beach Bar Party Tent will be serving drinks. You don’t need to buy a ticket to check out either.