Close to a million people are expected to stop by the 14th annual International Sand Sculpting Festival, which takes over Revere Beach July 21 through 23.
The event represents a time to enjoy a warm weekend in July with family and friends. However, for the 15 professional sand sculptors who're competing, it’s also serious business.
"Revere Beach is one of the top three competitions in the world," says Meredith Corson-Doubleday, who helps organize the event through her Florida-based company Sanding Ovations. "All the competitors here are world champion level."
Competitors come from across the globe come to Boston’s shores to create enormous sand masterpieces, which they must sculpt between Wednesday and Saturday. Three expert judges will then decide on a winner, doling out over $40,000 in cash prizes. Spectators also play a role by choosing which sculpture will take home the People’s Choice Award.
"It’s not just their ability that comes to play. It’s their personality," says Corson-Doubleday. "We love sculptors that carve from the heart."
In addition to the individual sculptures, the international sand artists will work together to create a 20-foot wide sand replica of the U.S.S. Constitution as well as a 10-foot tall lighthouse, homages to the Boston landmark leaving dry dock on July 23 and last month’s tall ships extravaganza.
World-renowned sand sculptors aren’t the only ones who spend the year anticipating the festival. The Revere Beach Partnership organizes and hosts the annual event, seeking to showcase and draw visitors to America’s oldest public beach.
"We do this because we think it’s a great way to expose the children and families to something they otherwise wouldn’t see,” says John Hamel, the organization’s board president.
The partnership formed as Revere Beach fell off in popularty in the late 20th century and seeks to maintain and revitalize the beach as a community resource.
"Our mission is to continue the heritage of Revere Beach as a nearby retreat for working people from New England," Hamel says. "Our belief is that not everyone can afford to go to the Cape and nor should they have to the leave the Greater Boston area to enjoy a nice day at the beach."
He adds, "We recognize that the beach itself is a natural resource in of itself that enriches people’s lives."
To this end, the sand sculpting festival is not only an opportunity for New Englanders to see sand art, but enjoy a unique summer beach day. There will be a merry-go-round, a Ferris wheel and a kiddie coaster, plus sand castle lessons and other children’s activities. Families can enjoy live music and entertainment throughout the festival and grab bites from several food vendors and food trucks.
Festival-goers definitely won’t want to miss Saturday night's sculpture awards ceremony at 6 p.m. or the fireworks show at 9 p.m. After the festivities, the sculptures are open to the public until they eventually succumb to natural erosion. Corson-Doubleday says the sand arts’ short-lived nature provide a unique challenge to artists.
"The reason so many of us do this is because it’s not permanent," she says. "There’s so much more intrigue because it’s not going to be there for a long time."
If you go:
July 21-23, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. on Sunday, Revere Beach, Revere, free, reverebeachpartnership.com