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Competition to transform beach city's sand into art

This weekend, Treasure Island hopes to live up to its new name as Sand Sculpture Capital of Florida.

By JULIANNE WU, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 15, 2002

TREASURE ISLAND -- When you mix a little water and sand, what do you get?

"Some pretty amazing art," said Debbie Stambaugh, president and CEO of the Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce.

From Friday through Sunday, the chamber will sponsor the American Masters Cup Sand Sculpting Competition and Beach Party in Treasure Island's County Park (see box.)

The 11th annual event used to be called Taste of the Beaches. The name change reflects the city's new title, Sand Sculpture Capital of Florida.

The sand sculpting competition will be hosted by Dan Doubleday and Meredith Corson, champions themselves and owners of Sanding Ovations, a local sand sculpting business. They have attracted seven sand sculptors from the United States, Mexico and Canada to compete in the event.

"I think sand sculpting is fascinating to people of all ages," Stambaugh said. "For instance, the first thing a kid builds on the beach is a sand castle. And even seniors enjoy the art, which starts purely with water and sand.

"And we have a twist on the event: The County Supervisor of Elections Office will have the new electronic voting machines out there so people can vote for the People's Choice award throughout the weekend. It also will give them a chance to try out the new machines."

Last December, at the request of two local state legislators, some beach chamber of commerce representatives and Treasure Island Mayor Leon Atkinson, Gov. Jeb Bush bestowed the new title on Treasure Island, the beach city known for the pirate on its welcome sign.

"This is a tremendous thing for us (to be known as the Sand Sculpture Capital of Florida)," said Atkinson. "And this event (this weekend) is the type of nice, good family-type things we want on our island."

Treasure Island used a historical connection to sand sculptures to win the governor's signature. In April 1985 and 1986, huge sand castles constructed on Treasure Island's beach attracted more than 100,000 people each year. The second sculpture, called the Lost City of Atlantis, made the Guinness Books of World Records.

While the Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce already is using the new moniker in its advertising, Atkinson said there haven't been any official resolutions to change the city's current nickname, The Jewel of the Gulf Beaches. He said he hopes that as stationery is changed, Sand Sculpture Capital of Florida will be added.

Stambaugh said the chamber expects about 10,000 to 12,000 people to attend the three-day event.

Some parking is available, but Stambaugh says, "We are really trying to encourage people to use the Suncoast Beach Trolley. It stops right by the park."

-- Information from Times files used in this report.

If you go

The American Masters Cup Sand Sculpting Competition and Beach Party is this weekend at the County Park, 104th Avenue and Gulf Boulevard, Treasure Island. Times are 5-9 p.m. Friday; noon-9 p.m. Saturday and noon-5 p.m. Sunday. Seven champion sand sculptors from the United States, Mexico and Canada will compete for the Masters Cup grand prize. Food and beverages available for sale. Free admission. Limited parking, but beachgoers are encouraged to ride the Suncoast Beach Trolley.

Schedule of entertainment

Friday: 5-9 p.m., Conquering Lion, reggae music

Saturday: 1-5 p.m., Island Boys, island music; 5:30-9 p.m., Shark Attack, soft rock

Sunday, 1-5 p.m., Local Tourist, beach music

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