Clearwater Beach’s very own sand is sculpted to life in a 21,000 square foot tent just south of Pier 60.
The Third Annual Pier 60 Sugar Sand Festival is being held from April 17th-26th and uses 1,000 tons of sand. Ten master sand sculptors from around the globe took several days to build the exhibit. This year’s theme is “Sugar Sand Tales” where literary classics come to life with a modern day twist.
“For decades people have referred to our sand as sugar-like; hence the name of the festival,” event coordinator Lisa Chandler said.
Sunsets at Pier 60 Daily Festival is the main sponsor of the event. It is a year-round festival that highlights artisans, crafters, vendors and street performers. This is its 20th year in service and is a 501-c4 organization for the arts.
New this year is six nights of free concerts including the Black Honkeys, Pirate Flag and the Landsharks. There are also two nights of fireworks to celebrate the City of Clearwater’s centennial and dessert vendors. Yuengling Beer and Cupcake Vineyard wine are sold on site as well.
Inside the exhibit there is also a master sand sculpting competition where six sculptors are competing for a $5,000 prize. Votes can be made through donation jars placed in front of each sculpture and all proceeds from the competition will benefit Sandy Lane Elementary School in Clearwater.
A storybook themed playlist can be heard inside the tent with songs from Snow White, Cinderella, Harry Potter and many others.
On the weekends, a performance sculptor will be on site to do demonstrations and host clinics and even compete in a friendly duel with another sculptor in the speed sand demonstration.
“I’ve been to Tawain, Dubai and Rio de Janeiro and each of the places I go to sculpt has completely different sand,” master sand sculptor Dan Belcher said.
Each adult ticket to the exhibit includes a complimentary 5×7 photo, sponsored by CCM Graphics and Visit St. Pete/Clearwater.
Many of the local businesses and artisans noticed a spike in tourism and business once the sand festival began. Dallas Saupe, a street performer, has been on Clearwater Beach for nearly twenty years.
“Last Friday it was pretty slow after the Easter holiday. This Friday each of our shows were packed and had hundreds of people gathered around to watch,” Saupe said.
Last year, the exhibit had 30,000 people pay to enter, but the festival itself drew in crowds of 100,000.
“I’ve seen similar things on TV, but in real life it’s so much better. Everything has so much detail and the sculptures are huge,” event attendee James White said.
As part of a marketing grant this year, the festival will track zip codes from visitors to see just how much of an impact it has on the local community.