This summer marks 20 years since Parksville’s renowned sand sculpting competition has moved off the beach and onto a plot of sand in the Parksville Community Park.
The now Quality Foods Sand Sculpting Competition & Exhibition began as the Parksville Sand Sculpting Competition in 1982 and was held on Parksville Beach. During its first 17 years, the competition was a one-day event and viewers would have until the tide came in to check out the sand sculptures.
Since its inception, the event has evolved enormously, turning into a five-week festival that includes concerts in the park, a kite festival, the Van Isle Shriners’ Show & Shine, festival of lights and plenty of kids activities. Last year, close to 126,000 visitors attended the event, most of which were from out of town.
Two people instrumental in rallying to get the festival off the beach were longtime Parksville volunteers Joan Lemoine and her late husband, Jim.
The Lemoines moved to Parksville in 1995 and would walk the beach during the sand sculpting competition each year. Joan, an honourary director with the Parksville Beach Festival Society, said they thought it would make more sense if the competitors built their sand sculptors off the beach so people had more opportunity to view the creations.
“When it was on the beach the tide would come in and then it was gone,” Joan said. “We thought [having it off the beach] would bring more visitors to Parksville, which it has done.”
Joan said a group of people keen to get the festival off the beach came together and took necessary steps to accomplish their goal. They were ultimately successful and the competition was brought above the tideline in the year 2000.
“Jim and I just firmly believed it would work if we just stayed with it,” Joan said.
Joan said the event just kept growing with more days and activities being added to the festival each year.
“I’m very proud of what we’ve done,” she said.
Joan, 89, still comes to the festival each year and volunteers when she can.
“I come down and meet the sand sculptors and get sandy hugs,” she said. “There’s so much creativity, these guys and gals are amazing.”
This year’s competition theme is Myths and Legends and can accommodate 10 teams of doubles and 15 solo competitors. It is open to professional/master level sculptors, and draws artists from around the globe. The competition itself lasts for 30 hours over four days. Gates open to the public starting at 2 p.m. on Friday, July 12. The sculptures remain in place for five weeks, until Aug. 18, following the competition.
Joan said Jim would be “so proud” of what the Beach Festival has evolved into today.
She added that her favourite part of the festival is handing out cheques to the local philanthropy groups who volunteer throughout the event. Last year, 23 volunteer organizations shared $62,563 raised from the gate proceeds which went to help those in need in the community.
For more information and a schedule of events visit parksvillebeachfest.ca.