Sculptors had to battle Mother Nature in Parksville

Rain and the clay content of the sand provided some challenges

This year’s theme for the awe-inspiring sand sculptures at Parksville Beach is heroes and villains and it took some heroic efforts to repair the damage that occurred while they were under construction.

Mother Nature decided to unleash her wrath Saturday, but despite the rain and some other technical glitches, the Quality Foods Canadian Open Sand Sculpting Competition which took place over a four-day period July 9-12 was a huge success. The works of art are on display until Aug. 16. Event organizers said the master carvers not only had to contend with wet and windy weather, they also had to deal with less- than-ideal sand.

The combination resulted in five significant collapses, but event manager Trish Smith said the competitors rallied and managed to create amazing works in the face of adversity.

“It has been a bit of a challenge over the years with the sand. The sculptors require special sand with 20 percent clay. Ozero (Sand & Gravel) gave us the same sand as last year. It came from the same pit area but sand can vary depending on what vein it comes from and how deep you go,” she explained.

Smith said they conducted a scientific test that proved there was very little clay in the medium, only about two per cent, which she said is a huge variance.

She described what happened to the sculpture created by Mélineige and Guy Beauregard, a father/daughter team who won the doubles event last year.

“They had a mother and dad on top, and had a nice piece but it fell so they regrouped and carried on and built it lower. There were a couple of others that rallied back in the rain and it was amazing,” she said.

Cheryl Dill, president of the Parksville Beach Festival Society, was also witness to some of the collapses,. She has been part of the event for six years now and she said she has come to expect the unexpected from these master sculptors.

She said they know how to deal with the transient nature of their craft and she was impressed how Damon Langlois who came in third place for his piece called “Smash” was able to regroup and repair his super hero.

“The Hulk’s head had quite an undercut and was quite far out, but with the weather conditions on Saturday and the rain adding extra weight onto the head, it fell off about 20 minutes before the end of the sculpting day,” said Dill.

“Damon as a sculptor regrouped, gave it some thought and then Sunday morning just started piling up sand on top and created a head within a couple of hours and it looks fantastic,” she said.

Smith added that more than one team had to rally when their sand art came crashing down.

“The one that shows the forest fires is timely with the current forest fire situation. It collapsed. It was going to be Batman and Robin but it had a crack. We videotaped the fall. Within five minutes it was gone. It was like watching dynamite blow up a building. They lost about five feet but they walked away, gave it a break and then regrouped. When they went back and reassessed it they said it kind of looks like a mountain. Because of burning forest fires in the news they went with that and people love it and have been voting for it for the Peoples Choice award,” said Smith.

She agreed that the mind blowing sculptures the carvers have created this year are serious high calibre artwork and the thousands of people who will visit the gallery of sand art over the next 30 days won’t even notice there were mishaps.

Dill agreed and said this is the best year yet.

“Every year it is breathtaking and this year is more phenomenal because we knew by giving them an extra six hours it would allow them more time for risk taking. When you have this level of sculptor here they are going to take risks and they are going to try and go as high as they can and try more cut-throughs so you are going to get a better result.”

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