Sunday, February 05, 2012

My Sand Castle Days Idea -- fleshed out!

The headlines read that South Padre Island is best known as a super trashy spring break destination. Yay. What if we could change the world’s perception of us - virtually overnight! - into that of the place to go to see world class sand sculpture all year long? As I have already pointed out (multiple times) -- as of now the 25th annual Sand Castle Days doesn’t have a date or a home -- let’s do something extraordinary and create a new version of the festival that will last several months, be funded by a new private/public partnership and pay off in dividends all year long, benefitting the whole town while changing the way everyone looks at us by truly promoting SPI as the Sandcastle Capital of the World!

Let me paint you a picture

Starting shortly after Labor Day Weekend, the best master sculptors in the world begin arriving on the island. Each is committed to completing at least one large sculpture in a sandbox at a major venue (Louie’s, Hilton, Isla Grand, Sea Ranch, etc.) and several smaller ones in and around other local businesses. Starting as early as Sept., there will be things for spectators to see and do. Sculptors will post a schedule when they will be working and allot one hour a day to interact with the visitors, be it answering questions, demonstrating a technique, etc. Some of the sculptures will be built outside: in parking lots, courtyards or flower beds. Some will be built indoors: in lobbies, planters or window boxes or in less-used corners. Sculptures will be completed on a staggered schedule and each completion will be noted with a “opening/unveiling”, drawing more traffic to the host venue and giving the press something to crow about. Each completed sculpture will be added to the sandcastle trail map as it is completed, and spectators get to start picking their favorites and commenting on aspects of the various sculptures and their creators throughout Sept. and Oct. -- raising the level of excitement. All will be completed by mid Oct. (traditional SCDays dates)....

Leading up to one weekend in late Oct., which will be the big finale for the whole festival. Major venues will vie for the chance to host this. In addition to the amateurs, the one-day contest will feature the newly-enhanced “Texas State Championship” -- an 8-hr competition now opened to anyone (lingering master or ambitious master wannabe) willing to fork up the $50 entry fee and be judged via peoples choice…. perhaps in conjunction with a music festival and trash art sculpture contest, etc. Meanwhile, everyone can vote online for the "semi-permanent" sculptures at the major venues and the winner (medal only) is announced at the grand finale.

The sculptures on the beach will last a week or two at the most, but the ones built indoors or on private property could easily last through the holidays and even into Winter Texan season, giving visitors who may have missed the festival itself a good reason to come back and see what they missed (and make sure they don’t miss it next year.) Once the indoor sculptures start to crumble, the host venue could reclaim the space in time for spring break, if they so desire -- or they could keep the sandbox in place and a) hire a local sculptor to re-do the sand in seasonal themes, b) import kiddy toys and let the small fry take over or even c) hire a sandcastle instructor to give weekly demos and/or lessons in the sandbox while mom and dad spend money nearby. The venues that keep their sandboxes intact would be all ready for next year’s festival when, come Sept., the whole thing starts again. And the businesses who didn't participate in 2012 will be standing in line to participate in 2013.

This is what you expect to see when you come to the Sand Castle Capital of the World and it is truly and completely doable, even within the confines of the existing $35,000 budget. This is how:


I am envisioning this as a public/private joint venture. As I understand it, the city has committed to spend $35,000 -- which will easily pay for prizes and promotional expenses. The city will also help with ground transportation of sculptors, sand-moving logistics, etc. The other major expenses (mostly the ones associated with master sculptor fees and expenses) will be covered by the businesses who will also be the major beneficiaries of this festival.


Covers the amateur contest, Texas State Championship (1-day event with good prize money), sculptor “clubhouse” and special events
Agrees to temporarily “relax” some sign ordinances during the 2 months leading up to SCDays to encourage businesses to commission sculptures that tie in with their services (i.e. a book store could have a book-themed sculpture; Sea Turtle Inc. could have a sea turtle, Island Dogwash could have a dog, etc.)
To increase publicity, the city could pass an ordinance making it a crime to kick a sandcastle, similar to the one banning ties a few years back. Sentence offenders to a “sandcastle clinic” or something…. the internet eats it up!
Promotes the festival via internet, print and broadcast routes
Oversees voting and gathers info about the people who are coming and voting

Major Venues ($3000-5000?)

This covers the cost of flying in a master sculptor, providing room and/or board and a decent weekly wage
The venue also provides a sandbox of whatever size they want placed where they want it. They choose a sculptor who will work with them to create something they would be happy to look at for several weeks/months

In return, they get an incredible sculpture created and treated by a master sculptor which must be completed a week before the contest weekend. This sculpture could - with glue treatment and minimal on-site security (plastic chain link fence and a “do not touch” sign) - last for several months (see current Visitors Center Sculpture which has lasted for over a year.)
These venues also get an “unveiling/opening” party attended by press and all the cool kids, as well as a lot of attention on all promotional materials.
(These venues will see immediate and direct benefits from their participation during a time when business is usually very slow, and they can write it off as 100% promotion). 

Second Tier Sponsors (restaurants, condos. shops)

Can contribute money or can provide meals or accommodations for the visiting sculptors. In return, they will get smaller, temporary sculptures in or around their properties.
Since these venues will see immediate and direct benefits from their participation during a time when business is usually quite slow, they will be happy to contribute $300-$1000 (cash, goods or services), certainly. These sculptures (and their host venues) will also be noted on all promo materials.

Master Sculptors 

Many are between gigs or live in places that are turning cold in the fall. They could arrive on their own schedule and stay as long as they are working. The sculptors are encouraged to schedule times/days when they will interact with the public. On bad-weather days they can do smaller indoor sculptures for other local businesses. Some sculptors may just contribute one major piece, others may stay and do smaller, commissioned pieces as well. They could be housed in sponsoring properties and eat donated meals/groceries. The biggest chunk of their pay would come from the major venues, but would be supplemented by owners of smaller venues willing to pay to participate and be promoted on the trail. The sculptors who create the biggest crowd pleasing sculptures earn themselves an invitation back the next year on top of decent daily wages. If they stick around for the Texas State Championship, they have a shot at some good prize money.

Main Benefits

More participation from local businesses when they see that the whole town - not just one property - benefits
Fewer traffic/parking issues with spreading the event out over several weeks and several venues
Creation of a new, long-lasting attraction that can be built upon each succeeding year
New identity for SPI that will help us stand out in a crowded field of similar beach towns
More bang for our buck - the city spends the same amount of money but gets a lot more sand sculpture!

As you can see, I have given this whole plan a lot of thought and am willing to work my tail off to help make it happen -- if the town would just give the idea a fair shake. I have presented this idea to everyone I can think of and gotten a lot of really positive feedback from everyone EXCEPT the city officials who could get the ball rolling (with the notable exception of Councilwoman Alita Bagley, who has been most encouraging.) This is the time! We can do this! It won’t cost hardly anything and the potential benefits are many. You would pay an ad agency big bucks for an idea this uniquely-tailored to the island -- why do I have to keep begging people to give it serious consideration?

I am so sure that some beachy community somewhere someday is going to do something like this and benefit from it hugely. Why not us? Why not now? 

Thank you for taking the time to read this.


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