Sand sculpting masters return to Federal Way

An entry from the 2010 World Championship of Sand Sculpting in Federal Way. - Mirror file photo
An entry from the 2010 World Championship of Sand Sculpting in Federal Way.
— image credit: Mirror file photo

The World Championship of Sand Sculpting’s “Tour of Champions” is set to kick off in Federal Way on Aug. 18. The event attracts dozens of the world’s best sand sculptors, including some featured on the Travel Channel’s “Sand Masters.”

This year’s event begins about a month earlier and runs daily through Sept. 5 at 31510 20th Ave. S. in downtown Federal Way.

With last year's event held in late September and October, one of the issues surrounding Federal Way’s first crack at this event was the “reputation of rain,” said John Hatcher, co-organizer.

“We’re thrilled to be (holding this) in August,” Hatcher said. “We’ve got a great pattern of weather the last few weeks, and a great pattern of weather for the next few weeks.”

The tournament’s first day will be open to the public. Sculptors will begin their “pound ups,” which involves packing wet sand in wooden molds.

“They go through a lot of physical work that day so they can make these molds to make these great carvings,” Hatcher said.

On Aug. 19, the first day admission will be charged. Hatcher said spectators will start seeing the sculptors shape their works of art. Also beginning on Aug. 19 is what event organizers have named “Quicksand.”

“Quicksand happens in the evenings, and it’s a head-to-head competition between the sculptors,” Hatcher said. “It’s for bragging rights. It’s a head-to-head challenge on small, five-gallon carvings, decided by a vote of the people on who wins.”

Hatcher said Quicksand will be a regular evening fixture of this year’s event. The hours of the event have also shifted to better accommodate those who work, with the gates closing at 7 p.m. most nights. A new addition to this year’s event is the inclusion of theme days, in which various groups get reduced or free admission to the event. Confirmed theme days so far are Youth Day on Aug. 22, Armed Forces Day on Aug. 26, Senior Day on Aug. 30 and Elks Day on Aug. 31.

For many, the idea of playing with sand at the beach is a memory linked to childhood. Hatcher said this year’s event will have an expanded “sandbox” area for children to play. One of the sponsors, Woodstone Credit Union, will host an area for kid-friendly activities.

One of the sculptors, John Gowdy, will present another art form he likes to work in called “flying colors.” Hatcher described the unusual technique.

“It’s exhibitionist speed painting. It’s cool. He paints with the canvas askew, so you don’t know what he’s painting while you’re watching. He knows how he’s painting it, but it’s off reference to you. You’re trying to guess what it is.”

For a small donation, visitors can have their names written in sand, then have a picture taken.

Hatcher said he hopes Federal Way residents take advantage of this unique event happening in their own backyard.

“It’s world class sculptors producing art, and it’s at our doorstep. You cannot believe what you’ll see,” he said. “It’s here for a little over two weeks, and you’re going to miss it if you don’t jump right on it.”


The Sand Sculpting Tour of Champions runs Aug. 18 to Sept. 5 at the former Target/Toys ‘R’ Us site, 31510 20th Ave. S., Federal Way. Admission is $8.50 adults, $6.50 for children and seniors, free for ages 4 and under. Event runs 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays. Contact (253) 221-4449 or visit for a full schedule and more information.


The World Championship of Sand Sculpting came to Federal Way in 2010 after spending nearly 20 years in Harrison Hot Springs, B.C. The 2010 competition, held at a vacant parking lot at 31510 20th Ave. S., attracted 19,848 paying guests. Despite garnering regional and nationwide media attention over the course of a month, the event finished nearly $50,000 in debt.

In June, the Federal Way City Council extended an additional $25,000 in funding for the 2011 sand sculpting competition. The additional money will come from the city’s lodging tax fund, which is designed to create a financial source for tourism.

A variety of factors, including the weather, led to last year’s sand sculpting event not being as successful as anticipated. Because of past weather issues, event organizers pushed the date of the event up this year to run from Aug. 18 to Sept. 5.

The 2010 event attracted spectators from across the country as well as overseas. Visitors hailed from as far away as Peru, Italy, Nova Scotia, New Zealand, India, England, Hawaii, Boston and Texas.


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