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Back to the future: amateur division returns

While Beachfest attracts over 90,000 people to Parksville beach every year, organizers are always looking for ways to keep locals entertained, and returning, to the region's biggest event.

Trish Smith, manager of the Quality Foods Canadian Open Sand Sculpting Competition and Exhibition, said this year they are introducing an amateur competition sponsored by Big O Tires on August 3.

"The sand sculptures are a great draw for tourists, but not necessarily for locals — they might think I've seen that, done that — so we're giving people a reason to come down again," she said of the amateur team contest, which will be held on the actual beach during one of the lower tides of the summer.

Two types of teams, corporate and family/friends, will be comprised of two to six people with space for up to 40 teams, supporters and spectators. Each team will get two 20-foot by 20-foot squares, one for building and one for staging and support.

The corporate teams are adult only, but the family and friend teams can be of any age as long as they are all amateurs. Smith said they may allow one professional on a team — she points out they know who they are since they would likely be former Beachfest competitors — "but they can't stack the whole team with pros."

Competitors will be allowed to begin setting up at 8 a.m., with the contest running from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. followed by judging and award presentations before the tide washes them away.

There were amateur competitions earlier in the competition's 30-year history, but not since it was revived in its current form 14 years ago.

Entry is $30 and there will be plenty of fun and awards, though Smith admits it's more about the fun and community engagement, so the prizes will not be huge cash awards.

Smith also encourages potential amateur competitors to take advantage of their drop-in lesson on the opening weekend July 13 and 14 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

"It's perfect if you want to join the competition but have no idea how to do it," she said of the casual, two-day session that will have three professionals available to guide and teach anyone who wants to pick up some of the tricks of the trade.

While the opening weekend lesson is free and drop-in, people need to sign up for the amateur competition, which Smith figures will likely fill up before it runs Aug. 3.

Sign up online at www.parksvillebeachfest.ca, where they are also looking for local artists to sign up for the Art in the Park market July 27 and 28. Watch The NEWS for more on that.

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