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WOLF: My sandcastle-building skills haven't improved after all these years

COLUMN: Parksville sand sculpting competition begins July 11
Karen Jean Fralich won first place in the singles event at the 2023 Quality Foods Sand Sculpting Competition.

As a lad growing up in Duncan, Parksville always meant two things to me.

Beaches and sandcastles.

OK, three things. Beaches, sandcastles and ice cream.

My earliest memories of our annual forays up-Island to Parksville were almost all the same.

“I can run like five miles  and the water’s still only up to my ankles. When do we get ice cream?”

It was also Parksville where my sandcastle building skills were honed.

And by ‘skills’, I of course mean taking my little kid bucket, filling it with wet sand, turning the bucket upside down and declaring the resulting blob a ‘castle’.

Sure, I might dig a trench and call it a moat and add a little stick on top and deem it a royal flag – but that was pretty much the extent of my abilities.

Even as a parent, the upside-down bucket dump remained the go-to.

(Although the kids still thought I was some sort of genius when I showed them the trench thing).

So with those rudimentary abilities as a baseline, I marvel in awe each year when the wildly talented sand sculptors come to Parksville.

The Quality Foods Sand Sculpting Competition and Exhibition gets underway on Thursday.

According to, the competition begins with “pound up” on July 11 when the sculptors build and fill their forms.  Once their forms are filled and the sculptor feels they are solidly packed, they may remove their forms and begin to carve.

Gates open to the public to watch the sculptors carving starting Friday, July 12, at 2 p.m.

Judging will take place on Sunday, July 14, from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. and the winners will be announced on-site at approximately 5 p.m.

The gated exhibition will remain open to the public until Aug. 18. During the exhibition visitors are invited to vote for their favourite sculpture deciding who takes the “People’s Choice Award”.

Entry to the exhibition is by a suggested donation of $5 per person, with proceeds supporting local non-profit organizations.

Since 1999, the Parksville Beach Festival Society has given back more than $1,000,000 to the community via those donations.

Even if you have skills similar to mine, don’t forget to bring your buckets and little shovels.

You can learn the tricks of the trade at the Parksville Canadian Tire Sculpting Zone by attending the free sand sculpting demonstrations   and lessons on Saturday, July 13 and Sunday, July 14 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The event (and BeachFest as a whole) is a terrific showcase for the community and the region. If you’ve never been before, do yourself a favour and head down (or come up, or fly in) to the community park and check things out. It’s always amazing and always fun.

One last question... does anyone else still call the sculptures or the competition ‘sandcastles’?

As in “I’m going to the sandcastles this weekend.” I’ve done it forever. Is there a penalty for that?

Have fun at the beach.

PQB News/VI Free Daily editor Philip Wolf welcomes your questions, comments or local story ideas. He can be reached at 250-905-0029 ori via email at

Philip Wolf

About the Author: Philip Wolf

I’ve been involved with journalism on Vancouver Island for more than 30 years, beginning as a teenage holiday fill-in at the old Cowichan News Leader.
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