Crystal Classic to feature artists from the former Soviet Union and a couple from Bulgaria among its first-timers
For the first time ever, the Siesta Key Crystal Classic International Sand Sculpting Festival will feature two Russian artists, organizer Brian Wigelsworth told The Sarasota News Leader this week.
And another pair of first-timers — Paul Hoggard and Remy Gerts Hoggard — will be flying in from Bulgaria, Wigelsworth added in a Nov. 2 telephone interview.
Of Russians Andrius Petkus and Dmitry Klimenko, Wigelsworth explained, “They are two excellent sculptors. I have competed against them in Virginia Beach. … Fantastic, creative people.”
“Dmitry is just a big bear of a guy,” Wigelsworth continued.
Klimenko’s partner, Petkus, generally creates works with a Renaissance theme, Wigelsworth said. “It’s incredible.”
Speaking of the Hoggards, Wigelsworth noted that they have wanted to participate in the Crystal Classic for quite some time, but it is very expensive for them to travel to the United States from Bulgaria. They were able to snare spots in other competitions to make this trip possible, he added.
Paul Hoggard is known for his animal creations, Wigelsworth continued — especially elephants.
Among the returning artists, Wigelsworth pointed out that teammates Karen Fralich and Dan Belcher are past Crystal Classic winners. “We’re really happy to have them back.”
Belcher also is going to create a sculpture of Brad Goll, a much beloved sand artist who died about four months ago, Wigelsworth continued. “[Goll] was such a big influence on everybody in the sand-sculpting industry,” Wigelsworth added. A banner at the base of the artwork will explain the tribute, Wigelsworth said, noting that Goll was known “all around the world; he traveled everywhere. … We had to do something [to pay our respects].”
From then till now
It was Wigelsworth’s own experience as a master sand sculptor that led to the creation of the Crystal Classic in 2010. Having participated in many events in many venues, he told this reporter years ago, he knew Siesta Key’s fine quartz sand would be the perfect medium for the art form.
Working in teams of two, 24 sculptors from all over the world literally will be drawing from their imaginations as the 2016 Crystal Classic gets underway on Friday, Nov. 11, at Siesta Public Beach. The event will continue through Tuesday, Nov. 15. The hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day but Sunday, when the closing time will be 5:30 p.m.
Admission is $10 per day on-site and $8 at www.SiestaKeyCrystalClassic.com. Five-day event passes, with reserved parking, and three-day All the Music passes are offered, as well, but they will be available only through Nov. 4, a news release says.
On-site admission is free for children under age 5 and $5 for those through age 17.
A new feature this year, Wigelsworth pointed out, will be The Learning Curve, an interactive educational area for youngsters.
Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce Chair Mark Smith and his friend, Esther Quiles, suggested the addition to make the Crystal Classic even more enjoyable for young people, Wigelsworth said. “So I decided I would build a huge circular table.”
Its height ranges from 22 inches to 33 inches, he added, so it can accommodate a variety of ages. The sand-sculpting lessons that have been a traditional part of the festival also will be conducted at that table, he noted.
As Quiles explained it to Siesta Key Village Association members this summer, one primary focus will be teaching children of all ages about the different types of sand, with samples being brought in from a variety of beaches. Hands-on arts and crafts sessions also “will be conducted by an experienced high school arts instructor” and a local seventh-grade teacher, along with other volunteers, a news release points out. All science and art labs have been structured to meet Florida science and art standards, the release adds.
Youngsters attending the festival may participate in the sessions on Nov. 12 and 13 at 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m.
The musical entertainment also has become a very popular part of the festival, Wigelsworth told the News Leader.
“Eight bands will perform under a massive tent on the beach,” a news release notes, featuring “an eclectic roster of popular local and Tampa Bay area acts,” including Democracy, The Black Honkeys and Kettle of Fish.
“Everybody loves Democracy,” Wigelsworth pointed out.
Additionally, a Key West group that will perform from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 12, has been called the best Jimmy Buffet tribute band by Jimmy Buffet himself, Wigelsworth noted. It is the Big Bamboo Band. And even though its leader, Jim Morris, died in July, the other members of the group wanted to return to the Crystal Classic, Wigelsworth added.
Asked if he can begin to estimate how much time he invests in planning each year’s festival, Wigelsworth hesitated before replying, “Too much.”
As soon as the event ends each November, he explained, he begins thinking about the next one, especially the sculptors he will invite. “There’s so much planning that goes into it.”
Wigelsworth readily pointed to his collaborators, who, he stressed, deserve tremendous credit for the success of the Crystal Classic. They are Mark Smith; Maria Bankemper, co-owner and director of operations at of the Best Western Plus-Siesta Key Gateway Hotel; Marlene Room, marketing manager at The DAMEX Corp., who handles the entertainment; and Joye and John Argo, the photographers who document the event.
Wigelsworth also noted that Ann Frescura, executive director of the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce, and Paige Diffley, the office and event assistant, have been of great assistance.
The production of this year’s festival is a partnership between the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce and Mote Marine Laboratory, a news release points out.