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Sand sculpting event seeks new Federal Way site

'In the Sand Trap Again' by John Gowdy was one of sculptures featured in the 2011 Sand Sculpting Tour of Champions in Federal Way.
— image credit: Mirror file photo

The annual sand sculpting championship is expected to return in 2012, likely at a new location in Federal Way.

Nearly 11,000 people attended the 2011 Sand Sculpting Tour of Champions, which ran Aug. 18 to Sept. 5 at the former Toys ‘R’ Us parking lot on 20th Avenue South. As the city moves forward on plans for a performing arts and civic center at that site, organizers are searching for a permanent home.

“The idea is to keep it in the downtown core,” said John Hatcher, organizer and head of a nine-member Federal Way Community Council board. “We need to build on that window and make it one of our premier summer events. It’s kind of in a nice place on the calendar.”

The World Championship of Sand Sculpting came to Federal Way in 2010 after spending nearly 20 years in Harrison Hot Springs, B.C. Although this summer’s weather was more reliable, attendance for the 2011 event fell below the goal of 20,000. The 2010 competition attracted 19,848 paying guests.

Although still a work in progress, the goal is to make the sand sculpting championship a signature attraction for Federal Way. The event attracts sculptors from around the world as well as visitors from across the region and country.

“It’s still considered by the artists as one of the premier events of the year-long circuit,” Hatcher said.

In June, the Federal Way City Council extended an additional $25,000 in funding, on top of an already earmarked $23,000, 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.

Despite garnering regional and nationwide media attention over the course of a month, the 2010 event finished nearly $50,000 in debt; organizers vowed to repay vendors without city assistance. The 2011 event, which also depended heavily on community volunteers and service clubs, came very close to breaking even, Hatcher said. This year’s championship featured fewer contestants but more daily activities, such as the “Quicksand” speed-sculpting contests and an array of sand art to complement the main sculptures.

“We’ve had some good vendors who have carried the debt on to the next year,” Hatcher said. “The business community has helped us foot the bill through the tough times.”

Hatcher said the search for revenue and fundraisers has already started for 2012. One of the bigger challenges is raising awareness. He suggested some sort of banner that spans 320th Street to alert residents and visitors of the championship. Organizers would also like to see 50 or 60 local vendors and more artists participating.

“It’s just a building process,” Hatcher said. “The initial project that was brought to us was out of proportion for the demographics (of the Federal Way area). We brought it much closer to being completely successful.”

 

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