News

World Championship of Sand Sculpting features ode to veterans, Oprah

Michael Velling, a master sand sculptor and Federal Way dentist, will be working with other international master sculptors on a large display sculpture that pays tribute to American veterans and the men and women of the armed forces. He will be carving during the first two weeks of the month-long event.  - Courtesy image
Michael Velling, a master sand sculptor and Federal Way dentist, will be working with other international master sculptors on a large display sculpture that pays tribute to American veterans and the men and women of the armed forces. He will be carving during the first two weeks of the month-long event.
— image credit: Courtesy image

For the next month, the world's greatest sand sculptors will work their magic in Federal Way.

Final preparations are under way for the World Championship of Sand Sculpting, which runs Sept. 8 through Oct. 3. A vacant parking lot near the Federal Way Transit Center serves as the stage for 63 contestants from 17 nations who will compete in solo, doubles and team competitions.

Among the special sculptures slated for this month: A life-size rendition of Oprah Winfrey and a tribute to the U.S. military.

Trucks hauled tons of sand last week to the Hillside Plaza parking lot, 31510 20th Ave. S. In total, Lloyd Enterprises delivered 792 cubic yards of sand to the fenced site. By Thursday afternoon, dozens of small sand hills peppered the 4.5-acre parking lot, backed by a picture perfect view of Mount Rainier.

Watch a short video of the sand's arrival:

"There's a real cult following with these sand sculpting championships," said Mirror publisher Rudi Alcott, a co-organizer of the Federal Way event. "This is their World Series or Super Bowl."

The non-profit Federal Way Community Council helped lure the competition from Harrison Hot Springs, B.C., where it was held for 19 years. In July, organizers secured $58,000 in seed money from the city with plans for reimbursement. Primary expenses for the event include airfare, food and lodging expenses for the sculptors.

Sponsorships and donations from local businesses have helped the festival move forward, Alcott said.

"Our goal was to fill the void of Festival Days," said Alcott, referring to the now-defunct Federal Way carnival and parade held for several years during the last weekend in August.

Contestants from North America and Europe are due to arrive Monday and Tuesday.

"They are the best of the best. The contestants will produce something this city has never seen before," Alcott said.

Whether the competition returns to Federal Way next year will depend on finances from this year's event, Alcott said.

"We need to make this thing self-sufficient," said Alcott, adding that work for the 2011 event would likely begin this October. "This needs to be a fiscally responsible event for the city."

The event is expected to draw thousands of visitors to Federal Way who will spend money at local restaurants, stores, gas stations and hotels.

"Tourism is a key part of economic development, especially when you bring people from out of town," said Patrick Doherty, Federal Way economic development director. He added that the sand sculpting event puts Federal Way in the consciousness of people who might otherwise not have a reason to visit the city. When the economy was stronger, industry standards assumed "day trippers" spent about $35 each, while overnight visitors spent an average of $75 each, Doherty said.

The schedule

• Sept. 8-11: Doubles competition. Each team of two will have six hours to pound two semi-loads of sand into forms from which to start carving. From that point, the teams will have 22 hours of time between Sept. 9-11 to finish their sculptures.

• Week of Sept. 12: Master sculptors will carve display sculptures in the gallery.

• Sept. 15-18: Solo and team competitions. Teams with an average of five members each, alongside solo competitors, will shovel and compact sand in preparation for sculpting the rest of the week.

• Sept. 18: Judging and awards ceremony. A panel of international sculptors (three American, one Swiss and one Russian) will judge the sculptures, with awards issued at an invitation-only ceremony.

• Sept. 19 to Oct. 3: Meet the masters. This is an opportunity for spectators and tour groups to meet sculptors as they work in galleries.

• Special displays: The event will feature a tribute to talk show host Oprah Winfrey as well as a tribute to military veterans, MIA/POWs and active duty personnel. The latter sculpture is associated with Rolling Thunder, a national organization dedicated to veterans' causes.

• Food and vendors will be available.

Check it out

The World Championship of Sand Sculpting runs 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. Cost is $8.50 for an adult day pass or $6.50 for seniors and children. Family passes are available online at www.worldchampionshipofsandsculpting.com.

From Sept. 15-17, the cost for members of the armed forces (active or retired) is $5 with a military ID and $5 for the military spouse (their children will be admitted free).

An opening ceremony for the championship will begin at 9:30 a.m. Sept. 8 at 31510 20th Ave. S. in Federal Way.

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Read the Nov 21
Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Browse the archives.

Friends to Follow

View All Updates