Visitors top 27,000 – and growing – at sand castles

Just over a week into the four week Quality Foods Canadian Open Sand Sculpting Competition and Exhibition in Parksville, attendance is strong, but may not break last year’s record.

Just over a week into the four week Quality Foods Canadian Open Sand Sculpting Competition and Exhibition in Parksville, attendance is strong, but may not break last year’s record.

“The event is so much based on the weather,” said Trish Smith, event manager, but she said they are quite happy with the way things are going, especially considering the generally poor summer weather so far.

As of Monday, July 25, over 27,000 had passed through the gates but she hadn’t had time yet to break the numbers down and compare them by day to previous years.

“We are averaging 3,000 people a day, which is pretty good for mid-week,” she said.

This year the opening Saturday of the 12th annual beach event — often one of the busiest days as the sculptors from around the world begin carving their creations — brought terrible cold, rainy weather.

The next day was nicer weather, but they were still down about 5,000 visitors from last year’s opening weekend.

Attendance has climbed steadily for the month long exhibition, reaching 99,000 last year with the expansion from three to four weeks.

On the second weekend organizers held the first of what they hope will be an annual Artisans at the Beach event, which Smith said was a big success.

She said their greatest hope was to have 40 to 50 artisans and they had 46, so she was very pleased, especially considering it was a late addition.

Now that they know it can work she said they’ll begin organizing earlier for next year and hope to have 80 to 100 artisans spread through the park demonstrating their craft and selling the results.

This Sunday, July 31 the Oceanside Overdrive Carshow runs as a complementary event next door from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

The following weekend is the Big Splash Entertainment Weekend, Aug. 5 to 7 from 3 p.m. Friday to 8 p.m. Sunday with a wide range of free musical acts on a big festival stage.

Music ranges from the 11-piece R&B and soul group Time Well Wasted Friday, to That 70’s Band Saturday and contemporary country with The Pony Club on Sunday.

The sculptures will be open an extra hour after the music Saturday night and lit up under the summer sky.

The sculpture exhibition is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily until August 14. Most activities are free but they ask for a donation of $2.50 per person to help keep it running.

Check www.parksvillebeachfest.ca for more information.

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