Sand sculpture has been in my blood since my earliest memory of my mom taking me to the Atlantic City beach and plopping me down with bucket and plastic shovel in hand. Little did I know then that this strange warm soft material sticking to my skin, would become my life's ambition in later years. Well it did...!
During seven years working as a beach lifeguard on those same beaches I often noticed your everyday sand castle built by "down for the dayers". I often looked at their creations but never dreamed what would happen next... A full time job in The Atlantic City Fire Department, marriage, three children, and faterhood followed. The year was 1986 and I was taking my three children, Kelli, Jennifer, and little John John to that same beach my mother had taken me to as a child. It is here where I plopped my kids in the sand. Since they were too young to bath in the waves of the Atlantic Ocean, I brought a good shovel and dug holes that filled with ground water and made a nice safe bathing tub for the three of them. What happens when you dig a hole...? You acquire a pile of sand. To keep the three of them occupied, I picked up a few used popsicle sticks and pieces of shells, and used these found items as tools to make sand castles out of the sand piles. I found this to be fun for us as a family and I was amazed at how the public reacted to what we created. I had stumbled upon the perfect family activity and a performance art form. The Rowdy Gowdy's Team went on to enter and win many local sand contests with interesting themes such as The Ninja Turtles, Neptune's Hand, and yes sand castles.
In 1992, I was invited to what was called a "professional sand sculpture contest" in Ft. Myers Florida. I never knew that adults took to sand carving in such a professional manner. Placing tied for 3rd at this event awoke a competitive and artistic nature in me. Since this day, I have won that event (The American Championship) four times along with The North American, International, and The World Championships of Sand Sculpture.
While researching sand sculpture, I was surprised to learn how "professional sand sculpture" had its roots in that very first beach of mine, Atlantic City, NJ. Way back in 1897 "sand artists" would work the crowds on the boardwalk for thrown coins. These were the first sand sculptors to earn money and a living at carving sand. This occupation was stopped in 1944 by a near-by hurricane of that year and then by a city ordinance. It is with great pride that this year, 2013, over 100 years later, I have arranged for the World Championship of Sand Sculpture, consisting of approximately 30 world class sand sculptors, to come to Atlantic City. With the help of AC Alliance and The World Championship of Sand Sculpting the event will take place beginning June 13th, 2013 and continue to the end of the month.
Here is my art form, sand sculpture, returning to its hometown with all its glorious history. I will do my best to educate the public as to the memory of those first sand artists. May they smile down on our event and the artform that they founded.