Parksville Beachfest could shatter attendance record this weekend

Beachfest Society will give a prize valued at $1,100 to the 115,000th visitor who comes through the gates to see the sand scultures

The number of people visiting the Quality Foods Canadian Open Sand Sculpting Exhibition in Parksville is blowing away the Beach Festival Society’s targets, with a new attendance record seemingly imminent.

As of Tuesday’s closing of the gates, 97,251 people had viewed the sandcastles. The record, set last year, is 104,427. This year’s exhibition ends Aug. 21.

“We were targeting a 10 per cent increase over last year’s record-breaking results, but to date, it looks like we will be closer to 35 per cent or higher by August 21,” society president Cheryl Dill said this week.

Dill also said the society will be giving away a prize valued at $1,100 to the 115,000th visitor to the event.

The favourable weather and broad appeal are big factors for ensuring visitors come to the sand sculpting site in Parksville’s Community Park, said Dill.

“The incredible sculptures are standing strong, despite the bit of weekend rain we had,” she said. “We were aiming for at least 115,000 visitors in 2016 in hopes of surpassing 2015 totals, and we anticipate that will happen this weekend, based on our attendance tracking.”

Tourism activity in the local area has been on the rise for some time; fun, family-oriented activities at the beach have always been popular. This weekend, the second-to-last weekend of the exhibition, more activities are planned, including free concerts in the park on Friday from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the picnic shelter (Mark Crissenger, sponsored by Koers and Associates) and Saturday from 6:30-8:30 p.m. in the kite field (two acts: the Wild Ride Band and The Timebenders in an evening sponsored by WildPlay Element Parks).

For more information about the sandcastles, the sculptors, the competition, the exhibition and the entertainment, visit www.parksvillebeachfest.ca.