Castles in the Sand

Location, location, location: Considering the prime beach-front real estate this sandcastle occupies, it would be worth a fortune if it were inhabitable by creatures other than sand crabs.

While one might assume the art of sandcastle building has been around since the dawn of humankind-what better way for coastal dwellers to unwind after a day of hunting and gathering?-some experts claim the first true sand sculpture was created as recently as 1897. And it wasn’t until after WWII, writes sandcastle aficionado Sandy Feet on her Web site sandcastlecentral.com, “that family sandcastle contests started popping up in beachside resort towns all along the East Coast.” But sand sculpture as we know it today began in the 1970s, according to Feet; that’s when competitors began creating enormous, detailed replicas of famous castles and fantasy architecture. Nowadays, you can’t swing a cat without hitting a seaside town that has a sandcastle contest. (The largest in the world takes place each summer in Harrison, British Columbia.)

This Saturday, Santa Barbarans get their chance to transform the sands of East Beach into a wonderland of castles, mermaids, and myriad other sculptures at the fifth annual Sandcastle Festival, benefiting the Citizens Planning Association and Foundation.

Here’s what you need to know: If you plan to build a sculpture, you must check in and register from 10:30-11:45 a.m.; the actual contest is from noon-3 p.m. At 3 p.m., sculpture judging and people’s choice voting begin, with an awards ceremony from 4:30-5 p.m. The day at the beach ends with the Surf-a-Duck race.

Even if you don’t participate in the sandcastle building, there will be plenty of music (Kelp, Bruce Goldish, Claude Hopper, DJ Gerry DeWitt) and activities (hula dancers, a bouncy house, sand candle making, a treasure hunt) to keep you entertained.

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The Sandcastle Festival takes place Saturday, September 15, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., at East Beach. Free admission. Registration fees: $75 (corporate/business: as many as 10 people per team); $50 (club/organization); $25 (family); $15 (6th grade and younger with no adult help); free (501(c)(3) nonprofit organization). For more information, call 966-3979 or visit sandcastlefestival.com.

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