Monday, February 21, 2011

What would it take to make South Padre Island the "Sandcastle Capital of the World?

Street Indentifier

In this day and age there are many beachside resorts competing for American tourist dollars. How do we make South Padre stand out in a crowded field? I propose that we immediately start calling ourselves the Sand Castle Capital of the World - a designation that takes advantage of and directs attention to our beautiful beaches but in fact drives traffic into local businesses on every part of the island. And then we put some HOT money towards making it so.

South Padre Island’s “SandCastle Days” has been successful enough to keep going for 23 years, but it has never lived up to the full potential promised by the great building material we have in such abundance. Part of the reason this is so has to be attributable to the challenges posed by our long, narrow island with its lack of centralized public beach access and parking for crowds. Isla Blanca Park has been a better fit than any of the beaches in town, offering many advantages for a traditional-style masters sand sculpture contest -- but let’s entertain some other ideas that would bring year-round sandcastling exhibitions and contests right into town and spread the sand around.

Amazin's Yard Sculpture
“The SandCastle Days Sand Sculpture Trail” would put breathtaking sculpture in the lobbies of hotels, on fishing piers, in parking lots and on street corners -- everywhere our visitors go. We could bring master sculptors down  as early as Sept. and let them stay for as long as they are willing (just getting them here is expensive, so why not keep them a little bit longer and get more sculpture from them?) and pay them fair wages to just blanket the town with sculptures - big and small, castles and mermaids and cartoon characters and reproductions of famous artwork etc. etc. We post a map online and hand them out at businesses, etc. showing people where to find the sculptures and forcing them to go places they have never been to see them. We encourage everyone to vote for their favorites (perhaps with some sort of “passport” where they can check off the sculptures they have seen, write notes to help them decide, etc), and even setting it up so they can vote with a text message or online. Then we hand out a “peoples choice” award with great fanfare -- perhaps as part of the “light the island” holiday celebration.

Best of all, these sculptures are an investment in the future. The Sons of the Beach are currently creating sculptures that can last for months and longer, even while under attack from rain, ice storms, wind and pokey hands. (For examples, view the sculptures at 117 W. Corral, the corner of Campeche and Laguna, and 117 E. Saturn. And while you are at it, take a look at Andy Hancock's little sandcastle lesson park on the beach at Boomerang Billie's. We already have a start on this trail!) When something is damaged, it can be repaired, rebuilt or removed. This stretches SCDays out for months, not days, allowing hundreds of thousands of visitors to see them instead of just the numbers we can handle in one weekend.

The free sandcastle lessons and open (amateur) contests could still happen in Oct. on the beaches at Wanna Wanna and Boomies -- beaches that can be walked to from pretty much anywhere on the island -- eliminating the parking problem.

The “Winter Sandcastle Days” could be a smaller-scale masters event. My suggestion would be to call it the new “Texas State Championship” with only Texas sculptors invited. (There are a bunch of us!) Since the sculptors would be driving themselves from points nearby, we could even keep the dates flexible to be sure that we have good weather -- promoting it through TV, internet and print media just as soon as the meteorologists can help us nail down a date.

The “Summer Sandcastle Days” could be a series of amateur events/contests where anyone interested gets a free lesson one day and then comes back the next day to compete in a medals-only contest. The weekly winners could get invited back to compete in a new category at the Oct. SCdays.

South Padre Island could really and truly be “The Sandcastle Capital of the World” - making us stand out among similar-sized beach resorts! This is a worthy use of HOT money that would assuredly put “heads in beds.” It is also almost guaranteed to capture the attention of the media and its visual nature will lend itself to viral marketing via cellphone cameras.
Business Identifier

We don’t need an event company from out of town to come down here and skim the cream. We have two resident sculptors - myself and Amazin' Walter - who together have organized and participated in more successful sand sculpture events than just about anyone in the world. We have other resident sculptors who compete at the masters’ level  - Christy McDonald and Andy Hancock - and we have a slew of experienced sandcastle instructors and crew members. Our community undoubtedly boasts the highest per capita ratio of serious sand sculptors in the word! Why not capitalize on that fact?

If we don't claim the title, you can bet that some other (not nearly as well-qualified) town will.


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