SandFest, Texas Day Trip

SandFest Sand Castle by L.A. Cargill

Port Aransas, Texas Beach Sand Master Competition

Sand Fest Ape by L.A. Cargill
A Sand Gorilla on the Beach!
SandFest Sand Hand by L.A. Cargill
SandFest Hand Sand Sculpture

Master Sand Sculpting on the Texas Gulf Coast

Port Aransas, Mustang Island State Park

Every year (around April) on Mustang Island, near North Padre Island, Texas, there is a fabulous sand sculpting contest called SandFest. This is a qualifying event for the World Champion Sand Artists and a whole lot of fun. Texas Sandfest official website with dates and times, click here. (opens a new window)

Sand sculpting is fun for the whole family and a great activity while on the beach. It's a performance art and the sculptors at this competition are serious about sand. The results are spectacular!

How to get to SandFest, Texas:

You can go through Corpus Christi and take the big bridge to North Padre Island (and turn left instead of right after crossing the bridge). Or you can take the ferry from Aransas Pass, Texas. The ferry is an interesting ride, but the wait time can be very long. And mosquitoes are everywhere! Texas gulf coast mosquitoes are fierce! So take lots of mosquito repellant to use for the ferry wait. After you arrive on Mustang Island, the mosquitoes are usually gone.

SandFest at Aransas Pass, Tx 2012 All photos © by L.A. Cargill, Sand Castle Video is from YouTube

Sand Fest Weird Face by L.A. Cargill
A Sand Gorilla on the Beach!

How to Video on making sand castles!
Another sand castle by L.A. Cargill
SandFest Sand Castles

Learning to sculpt in sand on a beach

Some say that Port Aransas and Mustang Island have the best sand for sculpting in the world! That's probably a big Texas tall tale, but let's look into sand quality shall we?

After watching the show, Sand Masters on the Travel Channel, you will learn more than you ever wanted to know about playing in the sand. It is truly an amazing show. Every week the cast goes to a new destination and builds an incredible work of art

The first thing they do is test the sand. One of the guys, usually Kirk Rademaker will squeeze the sand into a ball and see if it sticks together. Sometimes he will make three sand balls and juggle them. If he can juggle the sand balls, then the sand passes the test with high marks.

The next step for making a sandcastle is to pound the base down until it is really packed. Use plenty of water and the back of a shovel to pound, pound, pound.

Find or make a bottomless paint bucket, place it where you want your sand sculpture to start, use about a 10 gallon size or more, and fill it half to three-quarters of the way full with sand. Add water until it is really wet, soaking wet. Make several of these base units.

Let it drain a bit, then remove the bucket leaving a round foundation that you can stack more wet sand on. Use a kind of patty cake, jiggling method to place wet patties of sand on top of the round base. Use very wet sand again in this step.

After the 'cakes' are tall enough, start carving your turret. It helps to have a photo or coloring book page featuring a castle to use as a guide for carving. Make some overhangs and windows or doorways in your turret.

Next carve the main body of the castle using your picture guide. Use a spoon to make some indented features which add shadow depth. These can be doors or windows or climbing ivy. Add some stairways.

Build a wall around your castle by forming wet sand into a wall shape and add lines to simulate bricks or rocks.

If you are really adventurous, add some arches and a courtyard! Watch the video above for more tips and tricks on sand castles.

Combine sculpting with driftwood, shells or odd things found on the beach. My personal idea is to bring along some colored sand to highlight the sculpture and give it some Zing! Maybe some food coloring will tint the sand for an unusual effect. However, colored sand is not allowed in official competitions. You can only use things found on a natural beach.

Sand Carving Tools - Must haves

  • An old paint bucket or two or three with the bottoms cut out. Get the 5 or 10 gallon sizes at the local home improvement store. You might want to keep the bottom in one of the buckets to store your sand carving tools in.
  • Get a nice light shovel. One with a light metal base is fine.
  • You will need a square trowel. These can be found at the home improvement store also.
  • Get a pool trowel while you are at it.
  • Carve fine details in the sand with a palette knife.
  • Carve details with a butter knife or even a plastic knife
  • Popsicle sticks come in very handy for smoothing the sand.
  • Spoons are indispensable for cutting sand out for a door or window. Also for making arches or "cut throughs".
  • A paint brush is handy for smoothing large areas of the sculpture.
  • Save your soft drink straw for blowing sand out of small indentations. It will give the sand art a very professional look.
  • A large spray bottle filled with water for keeping the sand wet. This makes it easier to keep the sand sticky.
  • Any odd tool that you think will make cool patterns in sand.

Be sure to clean your tools thoroughly after coming home from the beach. Salt water is very corrosive and will harm anything that stays in contact. Rinse everything with clear water and then dry it all well before storage. You are going to need these tools for the next time you head to the beach!

More fun things to do with sand on a beach...

Get Buried in the sand!

Bury yourself with sand or bury a friend with sand - dig out a depression for someone to lie in. Gently cover them with sand and use water to pack it down a little firmly. Carve out an outrageous dainty or muscular body below their head. It will look like they have an entirely new body! Take a video as they emerge from the 'body'.

Make a sand candle!

Take some sand home with you and make some candles. Line a container with sand and pour melted wax in and add a wick. When the wax is cold it will be easy to remove the candle. The candle will be framed in sand.

Here are some more sandfest photos!

sand sculpted dragon by L.A. Cargill
A Dragon made of sand!
Sand Castle Vertical shape by L.A. Cargill
Sand Castle Vertical Shape
Bucket of Sand Beer by L.A. Cargill
Sandy Beer in a Bucket!
A Spiral Sand Castle by L.A. Cargill
A spiralling sand castle on the beach!

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