TREASURE ISLAND — Organizers of Sanding Ovations, Treasure Island’s signature beach festival, predict the four-day “Sandlantis,” a sand-sculpting competition with musical concerts and an additional encore weekend, will attract tens of thousands of visitors to this barrier island city.
“Sanding Ovations is the city’s signature event and one of the largest events in Pinellas County. People come from all over the country. Last year, Parks and Recreation estimated 30,000 attended over the 4-day event,” Cathy Hayduke, the city’s parks and recreation director, told Tampa Bay Newspapers. “Last year, the event generated 6,731 hotel room nights. Visit St. Pete/Clearwater estimates the economic impact for the 2020 Sanding Ovations event at $6,097,859.”
Then-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush proclaimed Treasure Island as the Sand Sculpture Capital of Florida in 2001. That led to the creation of Sanding Ovations, Hayduke said. The first was in 2008.
Producing the event requires more than just having sand available on a beach. Hayduke said 445 cubic yards, or 300 tons of compatible beach sand, is brought in for the sculptures. The sand is left on the beach once the sculptures are knocked down.
The competition is by invitation only. “The sand sculptors are professionally renowned artists that sculpt internationally,” she said.
This year’s “Sandlantis” wonderland will be created through the imaginations of sculptors Sue McGrew, Deborah Barrett-Cutulle, Melineige Beauregard, Manuel Campos, Damon Meri, Abe Waterman and Bruce Phillips.
The world-class talent level is supplemented by the sponsor sculptures created by Treasure Island’s own Meredith and Dan Doubleday of Sanding Ovations professional sand sculptors.
The festival has gone through some changes in the wake of COVID-19, Hayduke advised. “Last year staff had to adapt the setup to maximize social distancing. Event organizers also focused on domestic sculptors because international sculptors were not able to travel. We also went from a competition to an exhibition.”
This year, the Parks and Recreation Department continues to incorporate some of the changes initiated last year such as restroom trailers instead of portable toilets, social distancing signage and hand sanitizing stations, she said. “The sand exhibition is larger this year than in years past. ‘Sandlantis’ will offer 20-25 sand sculptures spread out in a larger area.”
Sanding Ovations is a free, family-friendly event. “There is plenty of room to spread out at the beach food court, beer garden and arts-and crafts marketplace,” Hayduke said.
Kites and night-flies-will be provided by Windworks of Madeira Beach.
“This year, the city incorporated an encore weekend, Nov. 26 to 28, which should increase attendance,” Hayduke said. “An encore weekend was added because the sand sculptures remain up 45 days after the competition and many visitors come out to see it. Parks and Recreation staff worked alongside some of the businesses to offer a scaled-back, additional, weekend to enhance the visitor experience in Treasure Island during a historically slow tourism period.”
Live music has always been an important component of the Sanding Ovations event. Over the past few years, the Parks and Recreation staff has brought in regional and national touring acts. This year, New Orleans legend George Porter Jr., bassist for The Meters, headlines.
Local heroes The Applebutter Express, repeat “Best of the Bay” winners who have played the massive Bonnaroo Music Festival in Tennessee, play their bluegrass blend at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 21.