California sun greets SandSations

<I>DAMIAN MULINIX photo</I><BR>Marie Boteilho of Ocean Park relaxes with her grandmother Pattie DeYoung after creating "Sea Life" with her friend Michael Gaylor at Saturday's SandSations. Their entry took the Judge's Choice for the Children's Division.

Sandcastles and sun bring 15,000 to Long BeachLONG BEACH - When walking up the Bolstad approach Saturday toward the crowded beach, you were just as likely to hear "Arr matey," and "Shiver me timbers," as you were to hear the sounds of surf music over the loud speakers.

The Orbital Sanders were the talk of the 2003 SandSations sand castle contest, sponsored by the city of Long Beach and Long Beach Merchants Association, with their pirate attire and talk, and their "Pi-Rats" designs for their sand-structure titled, "Who Cut the Cheese?"

"They were very entertaining and the crowd loved them," said SandSations committee member Roberta Marsh. "Part of the judging criteria is how they interact with the crowds. It made their sculpture even better because they were having fun with it. That's what you heard people talking about all over the beach."

And according to some reports, there were a whole lot of people on the beach Saturday - an estimated 15,000 between the Seaview and Cranberry Road approaches. For an event that was put together 19 years ago as a way of garnering tourism to the area - it seems to have done its job.

It didn't hurt that the weather was very "un-Peninsula-like," either.

"Anyplace where people come to visit you hope for wonderful weather," said SandSations committee member Sondra Nash, "and we got it. It couldn't have been nicer."

With sunny skies and temperatures in the 80's, it was a fabulous day for beach-goers - but not necessarily for those entered in the contest. Optimum weather for sand castle building is overcast. With the hot sun drying the sand out, builders had to keep their creations damp in order to keep them from crumbling away.

"I saw them spraying a lot to keep their forms in shape," said Nash.

Over 30 teams signed up for this year's contest, with 23 actually participating. Entrants competed in divisions divided by experience level, including Master's - made up of teams that regularly compete in sand castle building contests - Intermediate, Novice, Family and Children.

"I think that the Master's teams always come up with good ideas - they never fail us," said Nash. "They're what brings the crowds."

All three Master's entries coincidentally worked off a small animal and rodent theme. The first place Orbital Sanders carved rats in pirate garb eating cheese; the second place team Sandango created the "Hunter's Nightmare," full of wild animals getting into hunters' supplies; and third place winners Hard Sand Cafe, who took home top prize last year, created "Cheesy Tours," complete with mice and a "cheesy" Swiss aircraft.

"It was just a total coincidence," said Nash of the thematic similarities. "It was all cheesy and mousy."

But she emphasized that the event is all about family.

"We're getting more and more family entries and we're really happy about that," she said, "because we really want it to be a family event."

And nothing could have said more about the family theme than the Bromleys and Buckells of the Gig Harbor area, who held their annual family reunion at the contest. The group of 15 in all took home a third place prize in the Novice Division for their depiction of Italy, complete with a replica of the Roman Coliseum. The younger half of the group took a second place in the Family Division for "Marvin's Conquest."

"We try to do something different," said Lynn Bromley, the matriarch of the group. "Rather then sit down and have dinner, we like to do an activity."

There was also a fair number of local entries this year, creating everything from outrageous dogs to outer space vehicles.

The Wood family of Seaview took third place in the Family Division for "Seaview Sadie," a replica of a notorious local dog. The students of the local T.H.A.N.K.S. home school program took an honorable mention in the Mayor's Choice Award and second place in the Novice Division for their rendition of the tragic Columbia space shuttle.

And though most came to the beach Saturday to view the creations, just as many seemed to just want to get their feet wet. Kids and adults alike took to splashing around at the edge of the sea and in tidal pools. Some, obviously inspired by the contest, started building their own sand castles.

The Kiwanis Club ran out of hot-dogs after giving away 3,000 to the crowd for free. That didn't stop some other "hot dogs" from strutting their stuff in the "Sand Flea Pet Parade," sponsored by the Pacific County Humane Society. Over 50 pooches and the like turned out in categories like, "the beachiest dog," best costume and best trick. A dog named Moki took the prize for baring the closest resemblance to his master, Allen Hull of Vallejo, Calif.

The day, and the contest, ended just as it began. Like clockwork, the tides started to steadily roll in only a couple of hours after the contest completed, washing the hours of hard work away. It left the beach smooth and untouched again - that is until the next sand castle architect comes along.

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