The Largest Sand Sculpture Competition In U.S. Happens This Month In Texas
Texas SandFest is billed as “the largest native-sand sculpture competition in the U.S.” While the event was canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s back this year — ready to kick off Friday, October 15, for 3 days.
SandFest, held in Port Aransas, Texas, on the Texas Gulf Coast, began in 1997 as a small, local sand sculpture contest held on the beach. Since then, it has grown to become an international event that draws 180 master and semi-pro sand sculptors from the U.S. and other countries. More than 30,000 people attend the family friendly event each year.
“Texas SandFest is an amazing three-day festival that brings together master sand sculptors from around the world, using tons of sand to create pieces of art that can be higher than 10 feet and have some of the most incredible detail,” Brett Stawar, president and CEO of Port Aransas Tourism Bureau & Chamber of Commerce, told TravelAwaits.
Located 178 miles southeast of San Antonio and just under 40 miles from Corpus Christi, Port Aransas — or Port A, as it’s called — sits along 18 miles of uninterrupted beachfront on Mustang Island. Set on the edge of a continental shelf, Port A is known as an ideal spot for deep sea fishing. Then again, the waters surrounding Mustang Island also offer outstanding bay fishing.
Texas SandFest is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization created to raise funds for local charities and scholarships for high school students. Texas SandFest uses income from sales at the event as well as donations and sponsorships from local businesses and individuals to fulfill that mission.
“There’s really nothing else like Texas SandFest combined with live music, vendors, amateur carving contests, and so much fun in Port Aransas,” Stawar told TravelAwaits. “And, the best part is that graduating seniors from Port Aransas High School and the community are the benefactors of it all. More than $400,000 was invested in scholarships and donated to local charities in 2019.”
Each year, 28 master and semi-pro sculptors from 10 states and 5 countries participate in Texas SandFest. The event, using more than 10,000 tons of sand, also typically draws 150 amateur sand sculptors.
More than 30,000 visitors attend the event each year to walk around and marvel at the sand sculptures built on the beach. Those who are interested can even compete in the amateur contest.
You can learn about the sand sculptors here. You can learn about the amateur competition and also register to compete here.
There are several other activities at SandFest, in addition to admiring the sculptors’ work.
For example, at Lesson Mountain, “kids of all ages learn how to build their own sandcastles.” Chip Cooper, who has taught sand sculpting for many years, and other volunteers, will be on hand to pass on tips and tricks to sculpting artwork in the sand.
Secondly, anyone with kids or grandkids will want to stop by the face painting and balloon animal station run by Rockport, Texas-based children’s entertainer Joy Arrington. There is no charge for face painting or balloon animals.
Finally, no outdoor festival is complete without live music. The musical headliner on Friday, October 15, is Leroy Thomas and the Zydeco Roadrunners. On Saturday, the headline act is country singer/songwriter Matt Caldwell. Finally, the main act on Sunday will be ‘80s tribute band The Spazmatics.
You can learn more about SandFest’s hours and see a full schedule of events here.
Texas SandFest does require tickets for admission. Ticket prices are $15 for adults aged 13 and up, and $5 for kids between 6 and 12. There is no fee for kids 5 and under.
Face coverings or masks are not required at Texas SandFest because it is an outdoor event, which, by the way, is held rain or shine. However, event organizers encourage guests who are not fully vaccinated for COVID-19 to wear a mask. Attendees are also asked to practice social distancing. You can find a full list of SandFest’s COVID-19 guidelines here.
If you want to learn more about Port A or other Texas beaches, be sure to read The Top Texas Beach Towns You Must Visit.
Port Aransas is also home to the annual Whooping Crane Festival, which takes place each February when hundreds of whooping cranes arrive from Canada. You can learn more about that event in Tips For Viewing Southern Texas’s Beautiful Whooping Cranes This February.