Local sand sculptor Roger Caisson

Local sand sculptor Roger Caisson

‘The beach is the place to be’ in Parksville as sand sculpting competition and exhibition begins

Things With Wings theme is expected to produce some impressive creations

Beachfest is set to take flight on Friday.

Things With Wings is the theme of the 2016 Quality Foods Canadian Open Sand Sculpting Competition and Exhibition that starts Friday when 29 competitors from countries near and far begin creating the sculptures that could win them a share of $43,000 in prize money and a spot in the world championships in Dubai.

“We’re ready for this,” Beachfest Society president Cheryl Dill said this week. “The beach is the place to be this weekend.”

This evening (Thursday), the professional sand sculptors — seven doubles teams and 15 soloists — will fill their forms in what’s called the Pound-Up at Parksville Community Park, near the children’s playground. Starting Friday they will have 30 hours to complete their creations, with awards set for about 5:30 p.m. Sunday.

The sculptures will be on display until Aug. 21.

“We’re really interested to see what kind of creativity the sculptors from around the world come up with,” said Dill. “The people of our community help us select the theme (through a poll) and we’re following through with that. The sculptors have been very co-operative with that and sometimes it can be difficult to get artists to conform.”

The gates open to the public at 2 p.m. on Saturday, July 15 (a suggested $3 donation for entry) when the competitors are putting together their creations. After that, the site is open for the public from 9 a.m. to

9 p.m. every day, up to and including Aug. 21. Last year, a record 104,427 people went through the gates to view the sculptures.

More than 150 volunteers will be helping with the event this year, including many from 18 different community groups who will be at the gates every day.

“Volunteers are essential to making this event successful,” said Dill.

Last year’s winners will be returning this year. Marielle Heesels of the Netherlands and David Ducharme of Winlaw, B.C. won the doubles competition last year for “My Better Half.” They have split up this year, with Heesels now teaming with Leonardo Ugolini of Italy and Ducharme with Dmitry Klimenko of Russia. Two-time doubles champions, the father/daughter team of Mélineige and Guy Beauregard of Québec, are back this year. The only local competitors this year are in the doubles event — David Kaube and Mike Rebar of Parksville.

Last year’s singles champion Abe Waterman of Prince Edward Island (“Relativity”) returns this year, highlighting a singles field with eight competitors from B.C. and others from California, Washington, Ohio, Ontario and the Netherlands.

Volunteers from 18 community groups will be at the gates this year. The Beachfest Society donates proceeds from event back to these community groups, which last year received more than $43,000. The society also has entertainment and hands-on events planned for Beachfest this year. For more information, see the event program inside today’s edition of The NEWS and visit: parksvillebeachfest.ca.