Outside of California, the general perception seems to be that anyone who lives west of Nevada and south of Oregon just isn’t all there. Any native of our fair state who finds himself running down Park Avenue, say, painted green and wearing only a fur loincloth, could simply shout “I’m from California!” to the bystanders – and no one would ask for any further explanation.

A day-long festival, therefore, that includes adults gleefully building sand castles and competing to see whose rubber duck can surf more expertly could only happen here. And it will, on Saturday, September 13.

Begun in 2003, the Santa Barbara Sand Castle Festival draws huge and enthusiastic crowds each year, with teams of both adults and children competing for trophies. Previous entries have included the castle of Hogwarts from the Harry Potter books, an octopus’s garden la The Beatles, and King Kong emerging from the sand. Entrants use any tool imaginable to create their temporary masterpieces – the ever-popular bucket, of course, but also straws, small brooms, rulers, trowels, melon ballers, and spatulas.

The entertainment’s not limited to the sand castles themselves, either. Live music – all surf-themed, of course – will go on throughout the contest, which begins at noon and ends at 3 p.m. After that, the surf-a-duck race will begin, followed by judging and the distribution of trophies. Other activities will include a bouncy house, a treasure hunt, and free sand candle making.

None of these, of course, can overshadow the main event and, while attending the festival might be fun, it’s better to participate. In order to encourage those who might be lacking confidence, there’s a sand castle workshop today, September 6, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The finer points of tool use will be discussed, and attendees are encouraged to bring plastic forks, a bucket, and sunscreen. A video of a previous festival is also available online. In it, past entries and a little bit of technique are displayed for anyone seeking inspiration from home.

Another great resource for research is Sand Castle Central, a Web site dedicated to the art of sand sculpting. The photos on the site are particularly inspiring. Many other image galleries are available online, including this one.

If the rubber duckie race is more your style, start training your duck of choice now – a bath every evening between now and the big day might be a good idea. It’ll be a great anecdote to tell when visiting the East Coast.

The Santa Barbara Sand Castle Festival will be on Saturday, September 13, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Preregistration is available online, or teams may register at the event beginning at 10:30 a.m. For more information, call 966-3979 or visit sandcastlefestival.com.


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