The 10-day event is only in its second year, but it's already being viewed as a staple of the burgeoning beach scene.
CLEARWATER BEACH – Ten days. Nine sculptors. One thousand tons of sand.
That's the unofficial tagline for the second annual Pier 60 Sugar Sand Festival, a 10-day celebration of Clearwater Beach's sugary white sand and all the amenities the surrounding area provides for the event's visitors.
The brainchild of Pier 60 concessions owner Lisa Chandler, the Sugar Sand Festival serves as a leadoff for the city's annual Fun 'N' Sun event and is the culmination of a decade of hope and hard work for the longtime Sunsets at Pier 60 organizer.
“Ten years ago I had an idea to do something like this, and now here it is,” Chandler said from underneath the 15,000-square-foot tent set up near the Pier 60 entrance to the beach. “I can cross it off my beach bucket list!”
Chandler, who along with her husband Steve have done everything from bringing the sculpting team to town to shoveling sand for the 13 movie-themed sculptures, said that last year city officials asked her to come up with an event to kick off the Fun 'N' Sun fest.
She had seen the sand sculpting events before and always thought it would be a great idea to shine that kind of spotlight on the unique sand found on Clearwater Beach.
“Our sand is unlike any sand found anywhere else in the world,” she said. “It truly is sugar-like. So I thought a “sugar sand”-sculpting sculpting event would be a natural fit.”
In its inaugural year, the festival was a huge success, drawing thousands of people to the beach, many of them familiar with sand sculpting from TV shows like “Sand Masters” on the Travel Channel.
This year the event has, as they say, blown-up big time; Chandler said she has done live shots with local television crews on a daily basis since the Team Sandtastic sculptors began creating the exhibit two weeks ago, and this week the festival has been featured on the Today Show and the Weather Channel.
“Lisa has done an absolutely phenomenal job putting this together, she's brilliant,” Weather Channel personality Rick Adams said after filming a batch of live shots on Tuesday. “This is the kind of event that puts Clearwater on the map, and it should get bigger and bigger and be a staple of Clearwater Beach for years to come.”
Thanks in part to all the attention, the attendance this year has been terrific, according to Chandler. Even with a rainout on Tuesday, she said people have been flocking to the event in droves.
“Mother Nature gave us four banner days,” she said of the first weekend of the event, which began on April 4th and concludes this Sunday, April 13th. “The first weekend was nothing short of phenomenal, and we expect it to continue right through the end of the event.”
In fact the final four days of the festival are filled with a number of activities that should prove to be big draws for a wide variety of visitors.
In addition to the indoor exhibit, which costs $8.00 to attend and is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., there is a master sandsculpting competition Thursday through Saturday where people can watch the artists in action; a sugar sand sculpting clinic on Friday evening; an awards ceremony and fireworks show on Saturday; and it all culminates with a beach egg hunt on the final day of the event on Sunday.
Oh, as if that isn't enough, Frenchy's has a “Sand Bar” set up for beachfront eating and drinking, there are movies playing at Pier 60 every evening, and local music legends the Black Honkeys will be performing at the sand bar on Thursday night.
It all adds up to a special event that celebrates the beauty of Clearwater Beach by highlighting the allure of its sugary white sand.
“I think this event has so much potential to spread the word about our beautiful beach,” Chandler said. “I want this event to be what Mardi Gras is to New Orleans.”
For more information, visit www.sugarsandfestival.com, www.funnsunclearwater.com or www.travelchannel.com/tv-shows/sand-masters.