My name is Diana Blevins – my friends call me Di. I currently live in San Antonio, Texas. I have been traveling throughout the United States for the last six years. I would like to share one of my recent adventures, as seen “Through My Eyes.” I will be your personal guide for one of the most fun loving events I experienced this last November (2015).
I had the opportunity to spend a month in SW Florida on Estero Island and its town of Fort Myers Beach. This quaint little island of approximately 6300 year round residents accepted me with open arms. I became a part of this beautiful community, which I call Paradise, overnight.
Some friends that I have known for many years got me to volunteer for the 29th Annual American Sand Sculpting Championship. The event takes place on the south end of the island. Ft Myers Beach has been the honored host of this event for many years past and forthcoming. One of its most contributing attributes is the sugar white fine sand. The master sculptors who create their works of art will each use over one thousand pounds of the granulated gold.
The Ft Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce in conjunction with various local sponsors puts together this event every year. This year’s Championship is taking place November 20 – 29 on a long stretch of beach just behind The Wyndham Garden Hotel. It takes many volunteers, sponsorships and community participation to bring such an event together. I am proud to be a part of it.
After finding a parking place, I checked in with the event coordinator. On my first day I collected admission money and attached wristbands. There is a never-ending line of spectators flowing through the gate. However, the best part of it is that I am located right on the beach. Yes, paradise, seen “Through My Eyes”.
My shift is finally done, so let us get started with the tour. Welcome to The 29th Annual American Sand Sculpting Championship. We are going to wonder around a bit and get to know some of the master sculptors. Since I volunteered most of the event’s days, I watched the huge mounds of sand transform into masterful creations. The time, skill and imagination that goes into these works of art is incredible. You will see for yourself the amount of effort put forth.
While others believe sand sculpting is art or a sport, Master Sculptor Mehneige Beauregard from Montreal, Canada believes it is a spiritual experience. She tells us, “When my hands touch the material – my heart opens up to give life. When my head is illuminated by light – I become the co-creator of the universe”. She calls her creation, “I Love Recycling”. Seeing the world through Mehneige eyes can be a bit extraordinary.
Advanced Amateur Sculptor Paul Warren from Auberry, Maryland states, “I love to design”. “I love the beach and the sand and find these two passions of mind to be a perfect combination”, says Paul. He became interested in sculpturing in 2009. In 2012 he entered into an Advanced Amateur sculpting event and is now practicing to be a Master Sculptor. Looking at his work, it won’t take long. He named his creation, “Barrel of Monkeys”.
Master Sand Sculptor Abe Waterman from Prince Edward Island, Canada fell into his calling by total accident – undoubtedly due to clerical error. Several years ago Abe was hired on as the token local when a travelling troupe of sand sculptors came through the nearby town of Charlotte. In a desperate attempt to fit in Abe honed his skills by utilizing his shovel. Abe has become a Master Sculptor by staring at a sand pile, while simultaneously pacing back and forth, cocking his head this way and that to come up with a theme. His creation, “Pulling Faces” is simply amazing.
Advanced Amateur Sand Sculptor and native resident Bruce Peck From Bradenton, Florida has lived in Nova Scotia, Oregon, and California. Although his life has been focused on his career as a CPA, sculpting is his passion. In his freshman year of college he studied architecture, which enhanced his eagerness to be creative. Bruce entered his first amateur competition in 2004. The camaraderie and festive atmosphere keeps him coming back for more every year. His creation, “The Devil Made Me Do It” captures a menagerie of facial expression.
Master Sand Sculptor Steve Topazio from Tiverton, Rhode Island graduated with a fine arts degree from URI in painting and commercial art. At that time, professional sculpting was of no interest to him. While on a 2001 vacation with his family, they entered a sand sculpting contest and won. At that point Steve proceeded to find out all about this form of art. He discovered there were two Master Sand Sculptors living near him in New England. He contacted Greg Grady and Justin Gordon. Through their teachings of sand sculpting techniques, along with Steve’s artistic talents, he became a professional sculptor. His creation, “Steel Horse Protector” is evidence that he learned well.
Advanced Amateur Sculptor Albert Lucio, Sr. from Corpus Christi, Texas has been sand sculpting since 2005. He started with his son Albert, Jr. as a team in sand sculpting competitions until 2007. Albert, Sr. and his son have since continued to share a fun family rivalry as competitors. Albert, Sr. is also a martial arts instructor and a very proud grandfather of eight grandchildren. His creation, “Pirates Of The Deep Sea” has incredible detail.
Master Sand Sculptor Bruce Phillips from San Diego, California has been involved in the art of sand sculpting for over 20 years. He is known throughout the world from Tokyo to Amsterdam for his masterful skill. Bruce has won a 3-member division in the U.S., Open Sandcastle Competition 7 times and holds no less than 5 world records. This was his first time on Fort Myers Beach and competing in the American Sand Sculpting Championship. Bruce Phillips took 1st place honors with his astonishing creation named, “Transition”. Another award for Bruce’s already impressive resume.
Master Sand Sculptor Todd Pangborn from Jamestown, New York has a passion for sand sculpting that began in 1997. A family vacation to Virginia Beach confirmed his desire to become a competitive sculptor. It took him 14 years before entering his first competition in 2011. After several wins at the Amateur level and 3 Advance Amateur State Championships, he wants to bring something new and different that will hopefully bring him top honors. His amazing creation, “It’s About Time” brought him a 2nd place win. I think he accomplished his mission.
Master Sand Sculptor Morgan Rudluff from Santa Cruz, California has been sculpting since 2007. Morgan considers herself to be an eclectically educated science nerd. In 2007 Morgan decided to make a career in art. She discovered the key to life was laced within the billions of grains of sand, and her creative imagination that emerges within. Her creation, “Independence” earned her a 3rd place award. It seems that Morgan’s inner being paid off in a big way.
Our tour of this fantastic event is coming to an end. The last few sand sculptures were created by various artists who donated their time to help promote the sponsors that make this event possible. There is an attributing sculpture that commemorates our veterans and fallen soldiers who keep us safe. Enjoy these amazing creations as you see them, “Through My Eyes”.
The American Sand Sculpting Championship has something from everyone. The carnival like atmosphere offers a kid’s zone, live music, and great food. There are vendors selling a variety of merchandise from beachwear to jewelry and my personal favorite, real leather products. There are many independent performers exhibiting their talents. There was one performer that caught my attention. Mike Quinn, dressed as a skeleton pirate, has mastered the art of posturing himself. When people get within his circle, he quickly changes his position and startles his unsuspecting audience. I’ts funny to watch their reactions. This is a new chapter in my life’s diary. Spending time on the beach as a volunteer for such an exciting event is giving me a reason to come back to the island every year.