Parksville Beach Festival returns this week after a two-year absence.
Twenty-seven international master sculptors will compete in the first Quality Foods Sand Sculpting Competition and Exhibition event since 2019.
The sculpture competition runs from July 14 to July 17 and opens to the public on July 15. Sculptures remain open for viewing through Aug. 21.
The sand sculpting is part of the larger event, known to locals as Beachfest, a five-week long family festival running from mid-July to mid-August that also includes the Tim Hortons Free Summer Concert Series, daily buskers, an artisan market and a special weekend evening lightup of the sculptures.
The theme for this year is the the Roaring Twenties, chosen based on 2019 community and sculptor input, according to Cheryl Dill, Parksville Beach Festival Society president.
“We’re so excited about it,” said Dill.
“We really missed the part where we give back to the community and engage with each other towards a common goal and that is creating some fun, family-oriented good times in Parksville.”
In 2019, 115,188 visitors passed through the competition’s gates, according to the society. Community volunteers representing many non-profit organizations in the PQB area greet visitors entering the gates daily.
The society partnered with the PQB Tourism Association in 2015 to research the festival’s economic impact in 2015, using the Sports Tourism Economic Assessment Model (STEAM) steam model, Dill said.
The study, based on 100,000 gate visitors, found the festival generated approximately $18 million in economic impact for the area.
The festival has only grown in popularity since 2015, so the economic impact has likely grown as well, Dill said.
“We’re really hoping that this year’s gate is strong,” she said. “Because people want to get out and have fun, contribute to the community, spend meaningful time with each other. Our festival enables that because there’s something for everyone.”
The festival is also popular with competitors and about 80 per cent of the competition tends to be repeat contestants, according to Dill. The society puts them up in hotels, covers travel expenses and organizes fun and engagement every night.
“Were often told that we’re one of the favourites from an international point of view — a favourite site for sand sculpting competitions because of the way that the sculptors are received in our community and how they’re cared for,” said Dill.
Building a sand sculpture sounds like a lot of fun, but according to Dill, it’s also a lot of work.
“They literally have to pound sand initially,” she said. “They get a lot of sand to have to work with, so 10 yards, 15 yards, depending if they’re doubles or singles.”
There is a nerve-racking moment on Friday when sculptors pull away the forms from the sculptures and hope it holds.
“It’s like lifting the bucket off the sand as a child,” Dill said. “When you’re building a little sand building — will it stand? 90 per cent of the time, it does.”
All it takes for a sculpture to crumble is a crack or a little too much air, rather than sand and water getting in under the form. It can happen quickly or gradually, but in either case, the sculptor will need to rebuild.
“What’s wonderful to witness is how they handle that situation and recover from that,” said Dill. “But also the level of support they get from other sculptors.”
Competing teams include: Seveline Beauregard and Guy Beauregard, Sue McGrew and Dmitry Kilmenko, Fred Dobbs and Ted Siebert, Susanne Ruseler and David Ducharme, Edith van de Wetering and Wilfred Stijger, Abe Waterman and Joris Kivits, and Brian Wigelsworth and Matt Long.
Competing solo are: Guy-Olivier Deveau, David Kaube, Jo Hollick, Bruce Waugh, Yoshiko Matsugi, Peter Vogelaar, Damon Langlois, Francisco Valdez, Brett Stocker, Craig Mutch, Dan Belcher, Matthew Deibert, Sandi Stirling, Bert Adams and Andrei Kudrin.
For the sand sculpting competition, the society sends out open invitations to past competitors, in addition to any lesser-known sculptors who have expressed interest. The top three singles and doubles from the previous year receive an automatic entry into the following year’s competition.
According to their policies, the society assigns 25 per cent of gate proceeds to community projects and philanthropic groups.
“We’re really happy when we are able to, every fall, cut them a cheque for a portion of the gate proceeds so they can do their work,” Dill said. “It’s a real pay it forward model.”
Since 1999, the society has donated close to $1 million to non-profit organizations and community projects, which include construction of the park gazebo, community signs and the new Parksville Outdoor Theatre.
The new theatre will serve as the first-annual Rock the Park Music Festival, which will run Aug. 5-7 in Parksville Community Park.
The sand sculpting exhibition will remain open 9:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. daily until Aug. 21.
Admission is by suggested donation of $5 per person.
For a full schedule of festival events, visit parksvillebeachfest.ca.