Sand sculptures draw crowds to shore

(left to right) Meredith Stott, Johanna de Vries and Kristin Wheeler stand proudly in front of their octopus sand sculpture. // Photo by Christa Yaranon

by Christa Yaranon

When the tide is low, the beach at Birch Bay reveals glistening tide pools and windswept shorelines that stretch for miles. This scene served as a blank canvas for artists and sand sculptors for the 37th annual Birch Bay Sand Sculpture Competition and Rollback Weekend Car Show.

The event was hosted in partnership with the Birch Bay Chamber of Commerce and Blaine-Birch Bay Park and Recreation District 2. The weekend featured two days of sand sculpture contests, car shows, live music, food vendors, craft fairs and a beer garden which drew more than 10,000 attendees, according to the chamber of commerce’s event coordinator, Danielle Gaughen.

The sand sculpture competition and Rollback Weekend are annual Birch Bay events that were held separately in previous years. This year, the chamber decided to combine the two festivities to help utilize the park space in the most efficient way, according to Gaughen.

“We decided to put the two of them together this year, which makes for a fun event for all ages,” Gaughen said. “We have the sand sculpture competition happening out on the bay, meanwhile the car show takes place out on the park, which is just right across the street from the beach. It makes for a more jam-packed event with lots of options.”

According to Gaughen, the Saturday event was focused more on the car show and individual/team divisions for the sand sculpture competition, which were categorized by age groups ranging from kids, tweens, high schoolers and adults. The Sunday event focused more on group divisions for the sand sculpture competition, which were categorized by families and community groups.

On Saturday, the sand sculpture contest kicked off around 10 a.m. with the low tide providing muddy sand for competitors to build and sculpt with.

From there, participants’ imaginations began to unfold as their sculptures transformed into different creations. Among these sculptures included several octopi, castles, pirate ships and a Darth Vader helmet.

Local competitor Jim Challenger was one of the participants who competed on Saturday for the adult division along with his team called the “Geezers.” The group has been participating in the annual sand sculpture competition for four years and have won the top prize twice, according to Challenger.

This year, the Geezers returned to create a sand sculpture based on the Greek mythical creature called the Hippocampus.

“We wanted to do something that we’ve never seen anybody else do, so we came up with the idea of a part horse and part seahorse,” Challenger said. “But it turned out that there’s actually a mythical creature called the Hippocampus…. In Greek mythology, the Hippocampus is the creature that pulled Poseidon’s chariot.”

By 3 p.m. judging began, starting from the south end of the beach to the north.

Christine Tippe works on a pirate ship wreck sand sculpture. // Photo by Christa Yaranon

Just across the street from the beach, the car show took place at the adjacent park along with live music performed by local bands The Replayzmentz, Last Chance, Pacific Twang and Exit 266. Also taking place at the park was a BMX bike show hosted by Lenny’s Bike Shop.

By 5 p.m. on both days, awards were given out for first, second and third place winners in each division by the judging panel that consisted of local community members and friends of the chamber. Each team had a name or a designated captain who represented the group and placements were rated by overall appearance, originality, teamwork and design, according to Gaughen.

According to the results, for children under eight, first place was awarded to Team Bananas, who created a make-believe island called Hatuka. Coming in second place was Team Castle Builders for sculpting a castle. Third place went to Team Rocket for creating a space rocket.

For tweens ages nine to 14, first place went to captain Emma Riemer for her creation of an octopus holding Starbucks cups that she named Octabucks. Second place went to captain Lea Artiguenava for her creation of a hippo named Luna. Third place went to Team USA for their sculpture honoring the girls of the U.S. soccer team. 

For high schoolers ages 15 to 18, first place went to Team Castle of Dreams who created a castle on top of a turtle shell. Second place went to Team Ocean for sculpting sea creatures.

For big kids ages 19 to 100 category, first place went to Team Octopussy for creating a giant octopus. Second place went to Team Tidal Defense for creating a pirate shipwreck. Third place went to Team Dino MD for their sculptures of dinosaurs.

First place for the family division was awarded to Team Hustle Muscle for creating a pirate ship attacked by an octopus. Second place went to Team Gogal Family for sculpting an eagle. Third place went to Team Tess for their creation of a shell-hoarding octopus.

In the community division, first place was awarded to Team Insandity for their sculptures of a castle and dragon. Second place went to Team Mavericks for sculpting iguanas. Third place went to Captain Bryan Bell for creating a sea battle.

Local resident Ed Kaloff said the event was a great way for people to enjoy the summer and utilize their creative abilities.

“All the sculptures were fantastic and it’s great to see so many people out on the beach working together to create all these works of art,” Kaloff said. “It’s inspiring to see as an attendee who’s observing the competition.”

For Gaughen, the event helps to foster connection through community.

“I think the combination of the sand sculpture competition, the car show, live music and all the activities are just a great way to bring families and communities together,” Gaughen said. “It’s a real classic event and gives everything an old-timey feel. It makes for a lot of fun for everybody, from young kids all the way up to grandparents who can all come down to the beach and enjoy this celebration together.”

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