Sanding Ovations

Onlookers check out a “Smokey and the Bandit” sculpture during last year’s Sanding Ovations in Treasure Island. The event returns this year Nov. 14-18 on the beach at 104th Avenue and Gulf Boulevard.

TREASURE ISLAND – For years, champion sand sculptors Dan Doubleday and Meredith Corson dreamed of one day hosting a sand-sculpting competition in their hometown, Treasure Island.

The city had already earned the nickname of the “Sand Sculpture Capital of Florida” in 1986 when what was then-considered the World’s Largest Sand Castle was built on the beach in April of that year. Doubleday and Corson hoped to someday build on that legacy.

They often discussed this possibility with their longtime friend, Cathy Hayduke, the city’s recreation director. But they always came across the same road block: funding. Finding the money to organize the large-scale event they had in mind would be tricky. So the idea stayed on the backburner.

Then, 10 years ago, Hayduke received an unexpected call. Great Bay Distributors had a sponsor if they could pull together an event.

Hayduke immediately called Corson with the good news.

“She said, ‘We got some money. Let’s do this,’” Corson said.

This is how Sanding Ovation’s, Treasure Island’s Master Cup Sand Sculpting Competition and Music Festival, came to be.

Now in its 10th year, the four-day competition featuring 10 sand-sculpting masters from around the globe, is set to take place Nov. 14-18 on the beach at 104th Avenue and Gulf Boulevard.

The event has come a long way since its inception, Hayduke said.

“That first year was pretty bare bones,” she said. “We started with just eight sculptors. There were minimal vendors and music.”

Initially, they only invited sand sculptors from throughout the state, Corson added. Still, it was a popular event from the beginning, she said.

They made significant changes in its fifth year, including the addition of two more sculptors to the competition and inviting international artists to participate.

“It really jumped when we went from eight to 10 sculptors,” Corson said. “It took a big leap.”

Over the years, nearly 80 different countries have been represented at Sanding Ovations, Hayworth said.

Corson added, “We only invite the best. They all have their own styles. So it adds to the variety and creativity of the event.”

The number of vendors has grown significantly over the past decade as well, Hayduke said.

She added, “The music has definitely grown and increased over the years.”

Justin Tramble, assistant recreation director, said they offer a full lineup of musical artists Friday through Sunday of the event.

“We have a wide variety of national touring artists, some regional artists and then some local artists who have participated for several years,” he said.

Musical highlights include Pirate Flag, the Bobby Lee Rodgers Trio and Athens, Georgia-based Cicada Rhythm. Local reggae band Serenation will perform Friday night. Meanwhile, lap steel guitarist Roosevelt Collier closes out Sanding Ovations on Sunday.

“There’s something for everyone,” Tramble said. “We’re excited about a lot. Pretty much every band on the lineup brings something, whether something eclectic that goes with the event or has local flair. We’re putting together something special.”

Event organizers have set up a Spotify playlist to introduce Standing Ovations attendees with the musical acts.

This year, organizers have added a Saturday night fireworks show, she said. There’s also a new children's play and sculpting area for families.

They’ve also welcomed new sponsors over the past decade. This year’s sponsors include Corona, Visit St. Pete Clearwater, Bilmar Beach Resort and Sloppy Joe’s Bar & Grill.

Organizers are also commemorating the 10th year of Sanding Ovations, Corson said. To recognize the event’s anniversary, they’ve invited back past winners of the events. Usually, the top three sculptors from each competition are automatically invited back the next year to sculpt alongside a slate of new artists. This year, the competition will consist of only previous winners.

“We’re going back to our roots, artists people haven’t seen in a while,” she said.

She added, “It’s going to be a great event. It always is. It’s such a cool thing to watch. It’s literally a sculpture museum on the beach, and there’s no cover. It’s free. It covers every genre, so everybody will find something that they like.”