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Playing With Dirt

Last year, I took Kelly down to the Minneapolis Aquatennial’s Milk Carton Boat Races and Sand Castle Competition. It was a hot, sunny day…but she was won over by the wonderfully executed sand castles and made me promise we’d do it this year.

Well, low and behold she actually remembered this pledge…and when the time came around she began asking about it. Between the weather forecast (hot hot and muggy again!) and her being diagnosed with strep on Friday, it seemed that our participation was in doubt. Nevertheless, Kelly persevered and exclaimed that nothing would keep her from the 10 by 10 foot square of beachfront property. This left us on Saturday night with a will, but no plan or way.

We eventually decided we’d attempt a fun sand sculpture first, since sand castles just seemed too simple for this rookie bunch of sand artists! We thought we’d attempt a 3-D Campbell’s Soup can…with a backup plan of doing a “Snail Crossing” kind of a funny and goofy still life/single-panel cartoon to go after the coveted “Giggle” award.

Picture of number 39 sign We arrived around 9:30 in the morning for the competition. (Scheduled working time from 10am - 2pm) Kelly chose spot 39, which put us in the middle of the beach. (Note for next year…make sure to arrive early to secure a spot down on the waterfront, rather than one row back!) Besides a quick shopping trip to Menards to pick up a shovel, some paintbrushes and some spray bottles, the rest of the tools we used today came from my apartment. We brought along:

  • a spare colander for collecting pebbles/rocks
  • straws and chopsticks to do detail work
  • two buckets for water/tool transportation
  • spade/pie slicer for trenching/trim work
  • plastic forks/spoons/knives for decorating work
  • a towel…’cause, well, you never know when you might need one!

At 10am, the lady with the bullhorn announced we could begin. You could tell the rookies from the veterans at this point…the veterans all went down to the water and thoroughly wetted down their square. They began piling up big mounds of sand, each approximately 20% higher than the final product was going to be, compacting down the sand every few inches with a big board and someone’s weight.

We rookies sat around and plotted our plan for a moment before digging, wasting valuable “cool” time. Yes, not only were we battling the clock but the sun/temperature as well. I began shoveling a bunch of sand into a mount, which we thought we could form into a “soup can”-like shape. Things were going well…that is, until we decided he had enough height and started trimming away the excess to leave the cylindrical shape.

Right after we trimmed away about half the can, one whole side collapsed on us. Either we had too little or too much water in our sand…we went to plan B, the snails. Kelly began forming the pile of sand built up for the soup can into a big snail. I began to come up with ideas for the remainder of our square of beachfront…should we stick with a road/crossing visual joke, or go for something even goofier akin to a “Trojan Snail” idea. Just as Kelly was forming the snails head and finishing the spiral in the shell, the snail collapsed as well, leaving us with a mound of sand.

We continued to persevere…we had discussed many times that our “backup” plan would be a sea turtle. The mound of dirt wasn’t centered on the square…we’d still have to come up with something for the rest, but we set to work forming a gigantic shell. Before too long we had many passersby complimenting us on our turtle, which was the first good news we had all day.

As time clicked away, we worked quickly, albeit carefully on the turtle. I began doing the detail work on the turtle’s shell, making sure the pattern would not only look realistic, but also tessellate properly across the entire surface. Instead of drawing with the chopsticks, I quickly realized that it would be better to imprint the sand than carve it, so I fashioned a triangular stencil out of the straws we brought and pounded away. Kelly worked on the face, including quite a bit of time to get the eyes just right, and then did one flipper (which I used as a template for each of the remaining three flippers) and worked on the shell’s stonework.

Picture of completed sea turtle sand sculpture We “finished” about 15 minutes before the end of the competition. Gave us time to clean up our area, do one last spray down of the turtle to avoid the sand drying out and get some photos. Judging then took place…and the awards ceremony was done around 2:45pm. We didn’t place, but we definitely had a great time and agreed we’d do it again.

Full Gallery of Pictures Here


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on July 24, 2005 11:59 PM in Friends and Play.

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