Susanne Ruseler and Ilya Filimontsev were trying to relax, sitting on a plane last week, flying west from Pennsylvania after an intense sand castle competition.
Then it struck them: they were on their way to another event in Parksville and they didn't know what they were going to create for their entry in the Quality Foods Canadian Open Sand Sculpting Competition.
"When we came, we don't have plan," said Filimontsev, who lives in Moscow when he's not on the road competing.
"But it all came together like a puzzle," said Ruseler of The Netherlands.
It sure did. The pair won the doubles competition at this year's Beachfest with their creation called Guardian Angels. Awards were handed out Sunday.
Not only were Ruseler and Filimontsev without a plan when they got here, once they were well into their sculpture, they still didn't have a name for their entry.
"Someone from the public came and said 'they look like guardian angels'," said Ruseler. That someone was a woman named Denise, who splits her time between here and Sylvan Lake, Alta. She was at the awards ceremony to congratulate Ruseler and Filimontsev.
Wilfred Stijger, also from The Netherlands, had a plan when he arrived in Parksville. It changed as he was working the sand in Parksville Community Park.
His sculpture of young boys pretending to fly in cardboard boxes won the top prize for solo artists on Sunday.
Stijgen was asked if he ever pretended to fly in a cardboard box as a youngster.
“No. When I was a kid, I cut a hole out of a garbage bag and made like a parachute and jumped from about one metre,” said Stijgen. “I thought I was flying.”
Ruseler, Filimontsev, Stijgen and many of the other 26 sculptors here this past weekend said there’s something special about the Parksville event, and not just because it’s the only major sand sculpting competition in the country after the demise of events in Quebec and Harrison Hot Springs.
Many of them used the word “spirit.”
Beachfest Society president Cheryl Dill was asked what she thought that meant.
“They are really impressed with the amount of care and attention we give to them,” said Dill. “We recognize as a board that without the sculptors, we just don’t have an event. They are the kings and queens of this competition and we have to treat them like royalty, and that’s what we do.”
There’s still one award that’s yet to be determined, the People’s Choice Award.
“It’s actually the most coveted award with the sculptors,” said Dill. “They look forward to finding out who it is.”
You can vote for your favourite from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day until Aug. 21. The Beachfest Society hands out approximately $40,000 a year to community groups who help with the festival, along with the $43,000 in prize money given to sculptors every year.
The society suggests people who go through the gates of the sandcastle area donate $3.
The first weekend of Beachfest actually broke a record with more than 14,000 visitors through the gates. Last year, the month-long festival set an attendance record with more than 104,000 visitors.
5th Place: Stephanie Jo Hollick, Vancouver; Sculpture Entitled: “How to Train Your Dragon”
4th Place: Craig Mutch, Vancouver, BC; Sculpture Entitled: “Lord of the Things”
3rd Place: Fred Dobbs; Victoria, BC; Sculpture Entitled: “Learn to Fly”
2nd Place: Damon Langlois, Victoria, BC ; Sculpture Entitled: “Guardian Herd”
1st Place: Wilfred Stijger, Netherlands;Sculpture Entitled: “Up”
3rd Place: Jacinthe Trudel & Jonathan Bouchard, Quebec; Sculpture Entitled: “Arise - Find What Gives You Wings”
2nd Place: David Ducharme, Winlaw, B.C. & Dmitry Klimenko, Russia; Sculpture Entitled: “Ghost in the Machine”
1st Place: Ilya Filimontsev, Russia & Susanne Ruseler, Netherlands; Sculpture Entitled: “Guardian Angels”
Competitors Choice Awards: (Peer selection)
Soloist: Wilfred Stijger, Netherlands; Sculpture Entitled: “Up”
Doubles: Ilya Filimontsev, Russia & Susanne Ruseler, Netherlands; Sculpture Entitled: “Guardian Angels”