By Sally Dunaway for Island Eye News
Photos by Steve Rosamilia
A strange phenomenon occurred on Saturday, May 30. Beginning around 9 a.m., dozens of sea creatures, animated film characters, buried treasures and various other wild objects were reported sprawled across Isle of Palms’ sunny seaside. It was, it seems, Piccolo Spoleto’s 27th Annual Sand Sculpting Contest. Hundreds of curious spectators streamed onto the shore to watch the 47 competing teams pack and shape intricate sand masterpieces over two short hours.
Of the seven categories, each awarded the top three contestants. Sand-lovers David and Sandra (“no, not Sandy”) Errthum have been judges for nearly seven years, and when asked to name the biggest factor that sets winners above the rest, David said, “their idea, preparation, and explanation,” explaining that the depth of their planning was almost as important as the sand display itself.
Before announcing the winners, Volunteer Coordinator Chris Tindal called for a round of applause, saying, “I want to thank every single person here who had anything to do with picking up some sand and picking up some water.”
“Cracked Not Broken,” depicting the Liberty Bell and American flag, placed first in the Children’s division. Alongside her teammates Emily Irvin, Stihl Irvin, and Tierra Myers, all from Zanesville, Ohio, 12-year-old Sarah Irvin explained that she and her family learned of the contest that morning and spontaneously decided to participate.
“Well, we woke up this morning, and we just started, and we had just enough time to finish the flag — and then we got 1st place,” said Irvin.
First place in the Young Adults category was awarded to local high school sophomores Anthony Heiss and Michael Maddaloni. Their sculpture’s theme underwent a series of changes. What began as a campfire quickly became the Roman Coliseum and later finished as a prize-winning sculpture entitled “Yacht-Sea.”
Micayla Bordallo, Alan Bordallo, Jack Case and Jill Fluck with “Tammy the Two-Toned Turtle” took home the first place medal for the Family category, and the winner of the Adult division was “40 Years of Jaws.” The top Creative winner was Chris Miller, Greg Smith, Neil Haldrup and Clint Burdett’s “Piccolo Spumante,” featuring an enormous vine of grapes cascading above an appropriately huge bottle and glass of wine, and the clever LEGO rendition named “Where Are My Legs?” was awarded first place in the Architecture category.
Overall Best in Show was awarded to the West family’s “The Dock” which included a life-sized pelican resting on a dock detailed with a collapsed plank in front of a small tide pool. “I’m the brains,” Meredith West Yates from Mount Pleasant said, wearing Piccolo Spoleto’s 2002 Sand Sculpting t-shirt, “and Allan, he’s the talent.” The West family, like many other contestants, has competed in the annual sand sculpting competition for nearly 20 years.
“We’ve done a dock before, many years before, on Folly Beach, and we just added a pelican and the broken board. It’s a development, you know. I kept doing sketches,“ Allan said.
For many, Piccolo Spoleto’s Sand Sculpting Contest isn’t just a single-day event. Because these elaborate sand sculptures demand months of preparation, the more serious out-of-state contestants often make special trips to Isle of Palms throughout the year to practice with the specific granulation and weight of the island sand.
“Chris (Tindal) does the best job ever, doesn’t he?” Linda said. “He’s such a nice guy. He comes by and he’ll say, ‘Allan, no pressure, 13 minutes.’ So it’s just fun.”
Though there was definite tension in the last few minutes before “time’s up” was called, it’s precisely this fun and friendly atmosphere created by dedicated team members, such as Tindal and this year’s new recreation supervisor Andy Sinwald, that keeps locals and visitors returning year after year.