By John Hirtle
Atlantic News, Thursday, June 26, 2003
HAMPTON BEACH - What do you get when you bring together a group of talented artists and around 250 tons of sand at Hampton Beach?
Something that will delight the eyes.
The third annual Hampton Beach Master Sand Sculpting Competition began two weeks ago on June 13 not in the spirit of competition but in the spirit of cooperation. Fine silt sand required for the sculptors to carve their creations was brought in from a New Hampshire pond and was heaped on Hampton Beach. Local volunteers led by local sandsculptor Greg Grady got the huge "demo" piece underway, featuring figures from the famed "Harry Potter" books and paid homage to New Hampshire’s own late "Old Man of the Mountain".
As the sandsculptors arrived from places as far away as the Netherlands, each one pitched in and added their own unique addition to the sandy centerpiece. Plastic cylinders filled with sand soon gave way to towers, and plywood cubes changed into wizard’s chess pieces. Not all were there to compete - the competition is limited to twelve and a few had missed their chance. But they came anyway to lend a hand.
With Hampton Chamber of Commerce President "Doc" Noel sounding the official starting air horn on the morning of Wednesday, June 18, the competing sandsculptors were off in what could aptly be called performance art. Crowds gathered to watch rain or shine as the sculptors compacted their sand into forms and then began carving. A bewildering arsenal of implements were used, ranging from masonry and landscaping tools to items from the kitchen or drinking straws borrowed from a restaurant across the street.
Wednesday closed with the first aspects of the sandy sculptures taking shape above the forms, leaving people to wonder and guess about their final form. A pair of wings for an eagle? A tombstone? This guessing game drew back more spectators on Thursday, to see that the wings belonged to an angel and the tombstone was turning into a wheel.
Sand is fragile stuff though, as a section of "Bus Stop Daydreams" crumbled away on Thursday night, forcing its artist "Sandyfeet" to revise her sculpture quickly as the carving time drew to a close at noon. From 1 to 4 PM the sculptures were judged, the spectators getting to add their own opinions of which was the best sculpture for the People’s Choice award.
The awards that night drew a huge crowd to the Seashell Stage where Hampton Beach’s perennial favorites The Continentals were performing before and after the ceremony. With the help of Miss Hampton Beach, some $10,000 in awards were given out, counting up to the winning sculpture.
"Bee Careful" by Fred Mallet of South Padre Island, Texas took fifth place, earning him $500. It also won the Sculptor’s Choice award.
"One Armed Bandit" by Meredith Corson of Treasure Island Florida took fourth place, earning her $750.
"The Angel over Agony" by Justin Gordon of Groveland, Massachusetts took third place earning her $1,500.
"Asleep at the Wheel" by Dan Doubleday of Treasure Island Florida took second place earning him $2,000. Doubleday won the first place prize in the first Hampton Beach Sandsculpting Competition in 2001.
"Like a Fish in Water" by Marc Lepire of Charlesbourg, Quebec, Canada won the first place prize of $2,500. It also won him the People Choice Award of $500. His young son Matheiu would proudly parade his father’s huge check up and down the line of sandsculptures after the awards were given out and photos of his father and family were taken in front of the fishy winning sculpture.
With the awards given, the sandsculptors went on their way again, some heading off to a competition in British Columbia Canada. Their sculptures still stand for a time. Although they were slated to be taken down on Thursday, June 26, they were given an extension "Due to popular demand" according to Bob Houle of the Chamber. With the care of Bob Hannon the "Keeper of the sandsculptures" volunteers and other members of the chamber they will remain standing until Sunday, June 29.
Despite their attention though, the warming weather and fragile nature of the sandsculptures is already starting to show as they begin to erode away. Rain in fact helps keep the sand together - the baking sun and blowing wind will take their toll despite a regular dousing of water and a bit of Elmer’s glue which helps hold them together. On Monday morning the sculptures will be taken down and consigned to the Hampton Department of Public Works for use in their projects.
If you missed out of the event, visit our special sandsculpture page at www.BeachNewsNH.com to view images of the sandy masterpieces as they took shape.
Plans are already underway for next year’s sandsculpture contest slated to begin on June 11, 2004. If you are interesting in helping out be sure to contact the Hampton Chamber of Commerce at 926-8717.