‘My Better Half’ by Marielle Heesels of The Netherlands and David Ducharme of Winlaw

Attendance record set at this year’s Parksville Beachfest

More than 104,000 people viewed the sandcastles this year; festival wrapped up on Sunday

Was it the great weather? Or the great sculptures? Or the work of dozens of dedicated volunteers?

Whatever the reason — likely a combination of all of the above — the 100,000-visitor plateau was reached this year at the Quality Foods Canadian Open Sand Sculpting Competition and Exhibition, a mark that was elusive in recent years.

It’s an attendance record for the festival, which closed with the demolition of the sculptures on Monday.

The 2015 event featuring the Heroes and Villains theme beat previous gate attendance records — organizers say 104,427 visitors were “carefully counted” over the five-week period.

“The warm, sunny weather, quality of sculpting featuring a theme with mass appeal and the state of the economy all lead to such tremendous results”, said Cheryl Dill, president of the Parksville Beach Festival Society. “The vast amount of positive comments collected from local residents and visitors at the gate and through social media surpass previous years’ feedback.”

Organizers said the free concert series each weekend also likely contributed to the spike in numbers. The grand finale Saturday featuring two Vancouver Island groups, Johnny Inappropriate and The Timebenders, along with the Quality Foods fireworks, which drew thousands of residents and visitors on closing weekend.

Visitors also had the opportunity to select their favourite sculptures. Close to 100,000 votes were recorded. The artists behind the two most popular sculptures will be presented with The People’s Choice awards.

“These are highly coveted awards amongst the master sculptors in our competition,” said event manager Trish Smith, “and it seems that voters agreed with the judging results as well.”

The top prize in the People’s Choice Awards went to “My Better Half,” featuring Batman and The Joker, by Marielle Heesels of the Netherlands and David Ducharme of Winlaw, B.C.Second place in the People’s Choice Awards was “Relativity,” featuring Albert Einstein, by Abe Waterman, of P.E.I.

Fifteen solo artists and seven double teams competed in 2015. Prizes totalling $43,000 were awarded to Sculptors.

The 2015 winners, according to the judges, were:

Soloists

First: Abe Waterman of P.E.I. for “Relativity.”

Second: Leonardo Ugolini of Italy for “Super Natural.”

Third: Damon Langlois of Victoria for “Smash.”

Fourth: Kirk Rademaker of California for “Progress?”

Fifth: Helena Bangert of th Netherlands for “One with the City.”

Doubles

First: Marielle Heesels of The Netherlands and David Ducharme of Winlaw, B.C. for “My Better Half.”

Second: Edith van de Wetering and Wilfred Stijger of The Netherlands for “Every Villain.”

Third: Denis Kleine of Nelson, B.C. and Peter Vogelaar of Winlaw, for “Fire.”

Competitor’s Choice

(Selected by their peers)

Double: Marielle Heesels and David Ducharme, “My Better Half.”

Solo: Abe Waterman “Relativity.”

The Parksville Beach Festival Society said its mandate is to not only create fun, family-friendly events along side Parksville’s main beach, but also to help the community grow.

According to their policies, the Society assigns 25 per cent of gate proceeds to community projects and philanthropic groups.

Contributing to the maintenance and development of the Community Park is also a high priority, according to a news release from the society.

Since 1999, the society has donated close to $350,000 to non-profit organizations and community projects, which included construction of the park gazebo and community signs.

The society said it reserves funds annually to help sustain its future events, which can be threatened by such things as inclement weather.

For 2015, the society said it  aims to donate to 19 not-for-profit organizations, who provided gate greeters at the entrance to the sand sculpting site during the public exhibition. The exact donation will be determined once bookkeeping is completed in September.

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