Summing up the 2019 Crystal Classic: so much talent and so many appreciative people

Cooler weather proves no hindrance to fans of sand sculpting

Walter McDonald and Abe Waterman pose with their winning sculpture, Mine Is Bigger Than Yours. Image courtesy of the Crystal Classic

On Saturday morning, Nov. 16, even though the weather was cool and windy, that did not seem to deter the many visitors who waited patiently in line, many with multiple generations of family members, everybody happy and smiling and looking forward to seeing miracles of sand and water appear right before their eyes.

People wait in line for tickets to the Crystal Classic. Photo by Harriet Cuthbert

The theme of the 2019 Siesta Key Crystal Classic Master Sand Sculpting Festival was The Sea. We would see for ourselves what masterpieces resulted.

I recognized many of the artists who were at work, and many of the returnees could not praise our beautiful sand enough, which is one reason they do keep coming back.

Maxim Gazendam has his tools laid out on the sand. Photo by Harriet Cuthbert

The vendors were ready to offer food and wares, and the bar was open and waiting to serve beer and daiquiris.

Exactly at 10 a.m., the gates opened.

The sounds I heard as I wandered around the sand-sculpting area and observed the artists were the sounds of silence. First, there were the people, many here for the first time, standing still and silent as they watched the sculptures slowly come to life. Second, there were the smart phones — so totally silent, as if they had been ordered to not make a sound but just produce beautiful photos, recording memories of a wonderful day at the 10th annual Crystal Classic.

On Monday, Nov. 18, a perfectly glorious Sarasota day, I was back at the sand fest to check out the winners and review all the completed sculptures.

I should mention that the artists came from everywhere —many from Canada, along with representatives of Colombia, The Netherlands, Italy and, of course, the U.S.

Sand Man Rises is by John Gowdy. Image courtesy of the Crystal Classic

John Gowdy won first place for his solo work Sand Man Rises, an amazing piece that featured a large man’s head and a castle and a boy rising from the top of the man’s head. One of the man’s large hands held a smaller castle; the other hand clasped the man’s head, indicating the man was contemplating the meaning of life.

Geode by Morgan Rudluff was a very intricate work. Many viewers did not understand that a geode is a crystal that opens to reveal beautiful colors; this sculpture reveals a woman’s body.

Maxim Gazendam of Holland was one of the returnees. He had a wonderful creation titled Home is not a Place. He won third in the solo category.

Home Is Not a Place is by Maxim Gazendam. Image courtesy of the Crystal Classic

I did not understand Narinari by Marianne Vanden Broek, but I appreciated the delicate fish and their shells.

This is part of On Thin Ice. Photo by Harriet Cuthbert

Moving to the other side of the area and those teams, I saw my top choice in the competition. Called On Thin Ice, it was by Craig Mutch and Emerson Shreiner. It was a stunning rendition of how our planet is being destroyed by climate change. Many individual pieces made up this sculpture, but when you considered them all together, On Thin Ice elicited a lot of emotions. Many people visibly reacted to it. Something about the penguins got to me, and the chunk of melting ice with a starving sea lion next to it gave me the chills. Quite a political masterpiece, it came in second.

I was fascinated by Mental Block by Manuel Compos and Peter Vogelaar. The twisted shape of the brain seemed to illustrate that the man was encountering problems in his thinking. The brain was beautifully drawn. This team won third place.

Mental Block. Image courtesy of the Crystal Classic

And, finally, when I saw a huge crowd surrounding one sculpture, I knew I had arrived at the site of the first place team. It was a magnificent tableau called Mine is Bigger than Yours by the multi-talented Walter McDonald and Abe Waterman. It told a story, in amazing detail, of castles and kids playing and bragging as kids do. Every one of the characters was drawn so beautifully and delicately.

Mine Is Bigger Than Yours draws viewers into the details. Photo by Harriet Cuthbert

It was almost impossible to believe that these sculptures were created in less than three days.

I cannot say enough about this spectacular event, and I would like to congratulate Mia Leone, volunteer coordinator, and the entire Siesta Key Chamber staff for all their hard work and dedication. It definitely takes a village.

Thank you, and I will see you next year.

And the winners are …

International champions were declared for the 10th annual Siesta Key Crystal Classic International Sand Sculpting Festival, which drew thousands to Siesta Public Beach, event organizers announced.

Awards were presented on Nov. 17 to winning teams of two, as well as to solo master sand sculptors, a news release noted.
The Crystal Classic drew seven teams of two and nine solo artists from nations around the world — Singapore, Canada, Italy, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Columbia and Ireland, the release pointed out. The U.S. states represented were California, Florida, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Texas, the release added.

Team sculptors Walter McDonald of the U.S.A. and Abe Waterman of Canada won first prize ($4,000) for Mine is Bigger Than Yours.

First place in the solo artist category went to John Gowdy of Italy for Sand Man Rises, which offered a prize of $2,000, the release said.

The following are the other winners named by judges for the festival:

  • Second place Artist Team ($3,000): No Place Like Home by Craig Mutch of Canada and Emerson Shreiner of the U.S.A.•
  • Third place Artist Team ($2,000): Mental Block by Peter Vogelaar of Canada and Manuel Campos of Columbia.
  • Sculptors’ Choice Artist Team ($1,000): Mental Block by Peter Vogelaar and Manuel Campos.
  • Second place Solo Artist ($1,500): Magic by Karen Fralich of Canada.
  • Third place Solo Artist ($1,000): Home is Not a Place by Maxim Gazendam of The Netherlands.
  • Sculptors’ Choice Solo Artist ($500): Home is Not a Place by Maxim Gazendam.
  • People’s Choice Team ($1,000): Mine is Bigger Than Yours.
  • People’s Choice Solo ($500): Sand Man Rises.
Magic. Image courtesy of the Crystal Classic

“Despite the weather challenges this week, which created some difficulty, the quality of this year’s sculptures has been outstanding,” said Event Chair Maria Bankemper in the release.“We appreciate the public’s participation and support, as the turnout was much better than expected. We know we had many locals and tourists who came out, and we’re looking forward to 2020 which will be held Nov. 13 through Nov. 16, 2020,” she added in the release.

A portion of the proceeds from this year’s Siesta Key Crystal Classic will benefit student scholarships at Ringling College of Art + Design, assisting talented, creative students so “they may be able to pursue their dreams of higher education in art and design,” the release pointed out.

For more photos, visit the Crystal Classics Facebook page.