What do Ventura’s Art Walk, Santa Paula’s Moonlight at the Ranch, Conejo Valley Days, Simi Valley’s Cajun & Blue Music Festival, Oxnard’s Salsa Festival and Camarillo’s Fiesta and Street Fair have in common?
You may not have thought much about this, but these veritable Ventura County summertime institutions share three important characteristics.
First, each event was once the vision of an individual who yearned to bring wider attention to what is unique or special about his or her community---whether it be art, food, music or culture.
Second, when it comes to achieving the sort of longevity enjoyed by the six mentioned above, the original organizers found a way to make “third time’s a charm” work for them. If an event is going to grow legs, or enjoy increased participation each subsequent year---the usual measure of success---there had better be a willingness to submit to a steep learning curve during the first two.
Third, it takes a village of volunteers and almost a full year of planning to pull off a “you can’t miss this” event---especially when competing with the multitude of entertaining and economical ways to spend summer weekends in Ventura County.
Just such a special event is the Fourth Annual City of Port Hueneme Sand Sculpture Contest http://www.huenemesand.com/ which takes place on Sunday, August 19—giving out-of-towners something else to do from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM at the Toni Young Hueneme Beach Festival---besides browsing the wares of vendors, grooving to the tribute bands on the big stage, or receiving a guided tour of the Port or Ventura County’s only lighthouse.
Donna Breeze, the wife of the Port Hueneme mayor, hatched her sand sculpture contest idea four years ago while brainstorming strategies to keep Hueneme Beach from remaining “the best-kept secret in Ventura County.” Since her family members enjoyed digging in the sand, she figured a competition on the beach east of the pier would provide the perfect introduction to “The Friendly City by the Sea.”
Attendance during the first two years was, in a word, disheartening. After two painful post-mortems, however, four number-boosting decisions turned it around in 2011. Since the economy still hadn’t gotten into recovery mode, Breeze and her advisory committee decided to offer big cash prizes, require no entry fee, invest in a 12-month informational website and schedule a teaching demonstration by a professional sculptor the day before the competition.
The radical ideas paid off. More than 20 teams showed up last year to create a seventh heaven of silicon statues during the Sunday competition. To see exactly who carted home some of the whopping total of $2000 in prize money as well as their jaw-dropping creations---check it out.
The bigger the event, the more people-power is needed. From 1984 through 1986, for example, a group of art, culture and merriment-minded residents of the Anacapa Condo Owners Association held annual sand sculpture contests in conjunction with Port Hueneme Harbor Days. During 1986, cash prizes totaling a paltry $295---arduously raised via $3 entry fees as well as bumper sticker and donut sales---drew a record number of teams, yet there was no 4th Annual Sand Sculpture Contest in 1987. Why? Organizers learned the hard way that volunteers tend to vanish when the workload proves too great or the payoff proves too small.
So why should you put this year’s Sand Sculpture contest on your family calendar?
No team can fail. The secret to throwing sand up in the air and convincing it to stay there long enough to be carved into something spectacular, is compaction. Port Hueneme Beach Park sand has been certified, by a bona fide geologist, no less, as the perfect grain size for sand sculpting.
The contest is free—whether you are a sand sculpture virgin or a seasoned professional, you don’t have to pay to enter or to park.
Cash prizes---a grand total of $2,000 will be awarded. First, second, and third place champions in the Family/Friends/Non Profit Category will receive trophies as well as $1,000, $600 and $300 respectively. Traveling trophies will go to the first and second place winners in the Corporate/Business/Government Division. Both divisions are eligible for the $100 Honorable Mention award.
No experience is necessary. Dennis Shives, a natural born storyteller, will be conducting a three-hour teaching demonstration on Saturday afternoon. Not only does he possess an infectious sense of humor but he also specializes in getting artists of all ages to tap into their imaginations as they use wooden forms and everyday tools to create masterpieces in the sand.
So if you don’t want to miss out on one of Ventura County’s summertime institutions, we have only one question for you. Can you dig it?
August 18 Shively Sand Sculpture Demonstration (Noon to 3:00P; beach east of the pier)
August 19 Sand Sculpture Competition Check In 8 – 9A @ Show Control Booth just inside Beach Festival
Contest 9:00A - 1:00P on beach east of the pier
Judging 1:00 - 2:00P
Awards 3:00P @ Beach Festival Stage