The Pier 60 Sugar Sand Festival in Clearwater Beach -- 1,000 tons of sand, 10 world-class sculptors, all of them using the same materials we mere sunburned mortals use for our sand castles -- opens at 10 a.m. Friday.
SpongeBob, Captain Nemo and the Nautilus, plus one colossally large mermaid will be featured in the 21,000-square-foot tent, a truly astounding display of unlikely artistry.
There will also be craft beer and wine, a cornhole tournament, sand-sculpture demonstrations, movies, concerts and a giant sandbox for kids.
Sculptors at Sugar Sand don’t use chemicals or wood or wires to keep their creatures in place.
“Just sand and water, just like when you’re flipping buckets over as a kid, just on a bigger scale," says St. Pete's own Dean Arscott, a graduate of the Ringling College of Art & Design.
They don’t need pricey hardware, either.
“We use a combination of masonry tools, cake decorators," says Arscott, who's recreating SpongeBob's Bikini Bottom neighborhood. "Pretty much anything from the garage or the kitchen.”
Arscott says that, despite the sugary name, Clearwater Beach sand has good clay and silt content. In other words, it packs well. Still, you have to obey the general laws of physics: “[We] always [work] top down. Gravity is basically working against you."
The Sugar Sand Festival opens at 10:00 a.m. Friday and runs through April 23. Admission is $10 for adults; kids 5 and under are free.
Shephard's Beach Resort will charge $50 for a VIP Lounge Experience, which includes three complimentary beer/wine tickets, a t-shirt and swag bag, live DJ and more.