Siesta Key Crystal Classic Draws Crowds and Competition



The Siesta Key Crystal Classic returns this weekend, bringing master sand sculptors from around the world for a three-day competition on the white sandy beaches of Siesta Key. Complete with a master sculptor competition, amateur competition, the festival’s signature Quick Sand competitions and a veritable festival village of live music and vendors, the event opens to the public at 10am this morning and runs through Monday afternoon.

Arriving in teams of two—some from as far away as Lithuania and South Korea, others as close as Orlando—the master sculptors began their behemoth projects yesterday, taking ownership of their plots on Siesta Beach. Six of the sculptors arrived a week early to help create the Crystal Classic centerpiece, cooperatively carving the 275 pounds of sand into a monumental testament to the craft. But with that complete, the competition now commences in earnest, with each team aiming to outdo the others in terms of size, style, technique and imagination. Viewers will have a chance to submit their votes for their favorites throughout the weekend, with winners announced Sunday at 3pm.

In a first for the event, this year will feature an extra dose of razzle-dazzle for the nighttime crowd on Friday and Saturday, as the sculptures are lit by an array of multicolored lights. Brown sand tends to absorb the light, says Crystal Classic founder Brian Wigelsworth, but he expects Siesta’s white sand to do the trick. As a master sculptor himself, Siesta’s sand hasn’t let him down yet. Some competitions cart sand in from quarries and such to make up for a beach’s high volume of contaminants, such as shells and weeds and garbage. Not at Siesta. Not only would that be disallowed, as Siesta is a protected beach, but entirely unnecessary. “There’s no need,” says Wigelsworth. “This is probably the best natural beach sand in the world for sand-sculpting.”

And not only the pros get to take a shot this weekend. Amongst the live music and food and art vendors that visitors can partake of, an amateur sandsculpting competition kicks off Saturday morning at 10am. Sign ups are at 9am and entries are allowed morning of. The competition runs from 10am to 2pm. For those looking to be a little less involved, the Quick Sand competition (a Wigelsworth invention) arrives at a happy medium. Pitting two master sculptors against each other, both receive a five-pound bucket of sand and a challenge from the audience. After 10 minutes, the audience votes for the winner.

With sandsculpting lessons on-hand as well, in addition to all the sculptures to see and vote one, local artists to support and local food to enjoy, the Siesta Key Crystal Classic looks to bring the whole area out to celebrate its natural beauty. “I just like to see the community get involved,” says Wigelsworth. “One of my favorite things is to see the looks on peoples’ faces when they see the sculptures.” With near 50,000 visitors expected, that’s a lot of happy faces. Arrive before 10am if you want to park, he says, otherwise plan to park off the key and take the free shuttle in. Either way, “plan on spending the day,” says Wigelsworth.

The Siesta Key Crystal Classic begins today and the competition ends Sunday, although the sculptures will remain on display through Monday. Tickets cost $10 for adults, $5 for children and free for children under 5.

Pictured: Siesta Key Crystal Classic 2016. Photo courtesy of Siesta Key Crystal Classic.

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