Now in its sixth year, the Pier 60 Sugar Sand Festival on Clearwater Beach has long been the passion project of organizer Lisa Chandler.
This year, 11 sculptors from all over the world — including Japan, Mexico, and the Netherlands — are showing off their artistic skills by taking the 1,000 pounds of fine-grained white sand and turning it into elaborate structures ranging from famous faces and animals to historic landmarks.
“We’ve worked really hard to promote this to those in the Tampa Bay area,” Chandler said. Since the festival’s fourth year, she has seen an influx of visitors from Orlando and even farther away. “People are coming from all over the United States,” she said. “It’s really about marketing the destination.”
Clearwater Beach has already been hailed as the No. 1 beach in the country and No. 7 in the world by travel website, TripAdvisor. Condé Nast Traveler also recently named Clearwater Beach to its list of the 15 best beaches in Florida this year.
The festival is “really to showcase what we consider to be our No. 1 asset — the sand,” Chandler said. “We’ve brought it to life in a way that is extremely visual.”
The theme this year is “Sea America: A Celebration of America’s Treasures,” in celebration of monuments around the United States and pop culture. The main attraction of the 10-day festival is the Sugar Sand Walk Exhibit housed inside a 21,000 square-foot tent. “It takes two weeks to build the exhibit,” Chandler said, who noted that Team Sandtastic was commissioned for the job.
Last year, the festival had more than 40,000 visitors to the exhibit itself, while there were 116,000 guests over the 10-day period, Chandler said.
Run by Sunset of Pier 60, a not-for-profit organization, the festival began April 13 and will run through April 22. It was closed on Sunday due to inclement weather. There are several free activities over the course of the festival including free concerts, four nights of fireworks and free sand sculpting classes in which guests can learn from the artists.