By Katelyn Doggett
Get your shovels and buckets ready – the 32nd annual Birch Bay Sandcastle Contest takes place on July 18 and 19. Participants of all ages will have two days on the beach, using found items and their creativity to see who can create the best sandcastle.
This year’s event is being held over two days for the first time and includes a variety of vendors and food. The competition divisions have been broadened and are more welcoming to participants of all ages compared to previous years, said Birch Bay Chamber of Commerce coordinator Sarah Pinkey.
This year’s competition features $5,000 in “cash for college” prizes, which are offered to high school students seeking financial support for college.
First place in the high school division is awarded $2,400, second place wins $1,600 and third place wins $800. The cash for college money is provided by a grant from Blaine-Birch Bay Park and Recreation District 2, as well as local business sponsors, Pinkey said.
Each day features three different competitive divisions. On Saturday, the competition includes high school students in four-person teams, families and children ages 12 and under in teams of up to 10. On Sunday, divisions are sand sculpture masters in teams of up to eight participants, businesses, and individuals age 12 and older in teams of up to 10. There is also a special contest for the best three-minute video about the competition.
“This is a great way to come out, get involved and support the community while having fun,” Pinkey said.
Pinkey said the contest had over 200 participants and around 3,000 people in attendance last year and believes this year will be even bigger.
Sculptures are judged based on overall appearance, originality, teamwork and design, with a rating system of up to 10 points in each category, according to the official Birch Bay Sandcastle Contest rules and guidelines.
The judging panel will be comprised of Whatcom County officials, such as members of the city council and the school board, Pinkey said. Cash prizes are offered to the top three sculptures in the high school and masters divisions, and all other divisions are awarded trophies for the top three sculptures. The winner of the video contest will receive a $500 cash prize.
Last year’s winning sculptures included a dragon for best of show and a tipped-over semi truck by Northwest Clipper for the business division.
Pinkey advises participants to arrive with a solid game plan of what to sculpt and to take advantage of low tides prior to the competition to practice sculpting. More tips and hints will soon be provided on the Birch Bay Chamber of Commerce Facebook page.
Check-in and plot assignments start at 9 a.m. each day and construction begins at 10 a.m. and ends at 3 p.m., when judging begins.
To view the official rules and register, visit birchbaycommerce.com/sandcastles or register in person at the Birch Bay Visitor Center, located at 7900 Birch Bay Drive.