Saturday, July 6, 2013

Inaugural Blue Water Sandfest is underway in Port Huron

Master sand sculptor Brett Stocker of Los Cabos, Mexico.

Judging by the crowd attending Friday's Blue Water Sandfest it is likely to become an annual event at Fort Gratiot Lighthouse in Port Huron.

"It's a great idea. I think they should do it every year," said Erica Chilcutt. "We brought three kids up here for something inexpensive to do and they're loving it. I'm loving it."
The event features five master sand sculptors and five professional advanced amateur sand sculptors who, over the course of the weekend will create works of art out of buckets and buckets of wet sand. There's frogs and princesses, a candle in the wind and of course castles. On Sunday, judges will choose the best of the lot for prizes including one from each category chosen by people visiting the festival.

The idea for the sand sculptor competition and festival came to members of the Fort Gratiot Lighthouse last September. 

"We wanted to come up with something that would raise some major dollars for funding," said David Brooks, chair of the Sandfest. The idea for this event came after one of the members told the group about the sand festival in Fort Meyers, Fla. However, while Michigan has plenty of sand -- it's not the same as the white stuff packed against the shores of the ocean.

Porter Duncan, 4, left, of Chesterfield Township and Ian
Chilcutt, 8 of Port Huron create their own work of art.
"Michigan sand is very young," Brooks said, repeating what he was told by the sand-sculpting experts. Older sand as in the case of Florida and California -- is sand that has been pounded by the waves over and over agin. So, instead of using the sand on the beach in Port Huron -- 150 tons of old but very clean sand was donated to the event by Mid Michigan Materials in Jetto and delivered free of charge by Burgess Contracting. Besides creating a community event that is fun for all ages -- all of the sand that is being used for the sculpting competition will be donated to the Community Foundation of St. Clair. The Foundation plans to use it in the construction of the riverfront project.
"Our target is to raise $20,000 to match the grant from the Michigan Lighthouse Assistant Program," said Brooks, adding the funds will go toward the upkeep of the lighthouse, which offers tours to anyone interested and overnight stays to large groups.

"We all went to the top of the lighthouse," said Cheryl Duncan of Chesterfield Township, who attended the Sandfest with her family. "It's beautiful, what a view."

Master sculptor Brett Stocker -- the title applying to sculptors who have been at it for more than 15 years and won awards for their work -- said he travels all over the world for competitions when his wife is willing to mind their resort business in Los Cabos, Mexico. 

So far, Stocker said he's very impressed with the Blue Water Sandfest. 

"The sand is great. Very clean and easy to work with," said Stoker, who is creating an architectural piece.

Visitors to the festival can watch the sculptors work -- and give it a try. A small area of the festival offers children the opportunity to get their hands wet. There's also an art village, live entertainment, food, tours of the lighthouse and a gorgeous view of Lake Huron.

Admission to the Blue Water Sandfest is $5 per person, children 4 and under free. 
The event is hosted at the Fort Gratiot Light Station County Park, at 2802 Omar Street, Port Huron, Michigan 48060. For more information visit: www.bluewatersandfest.com.

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