17th Annual Hampton Beach Master Sand Sculpting Classic
June 15-17, 2017
Art in the form of massive yet intricate sand sculptures returned to Hampton Beach for the 17th annual Master Sand Sculpting Classic. It’s one of the great traditions of living in New Hampshire! The prep kicked off on Wednesday, June 14th, 2017 when 200 tons of imported sand was dropped on Hampton Beach and the “Grady Bunch” started pounding up the sponsor site. Greg Grady, event founder, and “The Grady Bunch” built a mammoth Sand Demo Site for the competition.
Sand sculptors from all over the world fly in for the event, which took place Thursday, June 15, through Saturday, June 17. But things shape up days before the sculptors begin their individual pieces, when tons of sand get dumped on the beach for the occasion. All of the participating sculptors committed to a day of work at the sand demo site before the big event got underway.
“It brings museum-quality sculptures to the beach,” event founder and organizer Greg Grady said. “A lot of people that come to Hampton Beach have never even been to a museum.”
After the sponsor site was created on that same Wednesday, they began working on the next challenge; The Solo Competition with about $15,000 in prizes and entry awards.
“The competition has such a good name in the way that Hampton treats the sculptors,” Grady said. “We treat the sculptors well so they want to come back.” He noted one example, Michel Lepire — one of the driving forces behind Quebec’s ice festival — who will be returning to the competition for his 17th year.
A sculptor himself, Grady started this competition 17 years ago, asking fellow sculptors to come to Hampton Beach to get it running. Most of the sculptors had never even heard of Hampton Beach. Grady said that since then, the Hampton Beach community has probably become the sculptors’ favorite part of the whole event.
Even with a number of veterans, Grady ensures that the sculptures are always diverse and fresh, in part by making room for new sculptors to enter the competition each year. But even with returning sculptors, the themes of the art evolve.
“It’s just like anything else in life. Things come and go,” Grady said. A total of $15,000 will be awarded to sculptors at the competition. According to Grady, the “wow factor” of the sculpture is a big part of the winning criteria for him.
“What really blows me away are the new things that they come up with every year,” Grady shared. “We don’t see the same thing every year.” According to Grady, there are only about 200 to 300 established sand sculptors in the world, but the profession can be lucrative once you develop the necessary skills.
Sand sculpting involves a lot of traveling, which makes it difficult for many people. The Hampton Beach Master Sand Sculpting Classic is a convenient event for established sculptors to scope out new artists with potential, and viewers have the opportunity to sign up for lessons with the professionals.
“You work the way up the ladder just like anything else,” Grady said about beginning sculptors.
There was 13 professional sculptors in total at the event. Ten sculptors competed, and some will just be giving lessons. Grady said that they expect to have about 100,000 spectators on the weekend the sculptures first go up. Since this event is free to all, it provides art for all walks of life.
Although the event does involve competition, Grady emphasizes fun for the community above all else. “People really appreciate the event,” Grady said. “You can just tell by seeing people’s faces and hearing their comments.”
Funding for the awards comes from sponsorship by the Hampton Beach Village District. The competition also has other platinum and gold sponsors, which include local businesses. Because of these sponsors, sculptors will be awarded $3,000 for first place, $2,500 for second, $2,000 for third, $1,500 for fourth and $1,000 for fifth place. Grady will serve as the head judge for these competitions. The People’s Choice winner will be awarded $500.
Now the part you’ve been waiting for, the winners!