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Imperial Beach transforms into Sandcastle City

I.B. Posse members Jake Meyer, Mark Durazo, Dominic Williams, and Matthew McCoy
I.B. Posse members Jake Meyer, Mark Durazo, Dominic Williams, and Matthew McCoy at the 2019 Sun and Sea Festival in Imperial Beach.
(Rick Nocon)

IB Posse embarks on ambitious sand sculpting mission — its biggest creation to date — to keep tradition alive

Every summer, the Imperial Beach community comes together to celebrate the city’s longstanding past time: building sandcastles.

Over the years, the neighborhood has been home to some high-profile sandcastle events. First there was the renowned U.S. Open Sandcastle Competition that started in the 1980s and gave Imperial Beach its sandcastle fame. In 2011, the event called it quits, but in 2013 the Sun and Sea Festival was created by popular demand and has grown to a three-day affair that includes food, music and vendors. .

But this year, things will be a little different.

The festival, which was cancelled in 2020 due to COVID-19, does not plan to return until July 2022. However, to honor the neighborhood tradition and lift community spirits, the Sun and Sea Festival Committee created Sandcastle City.

Instead of hosting one of San Diego County’s largest sandcastle competitions, the committee invited local sand sculptors to build the largest sandcastle ever made in Imperial Beach, according to an events spokesperson.

IB Posse member Mark Durazo works on a structure at Sun and Sea Festival on Saturday, July 13, 2019.
IB Posse member Mark Durazo works on a structure at Sun and Sea Festival on Saturday, July 13, 2019.
(Rick Nocon)

Starting today, IB Posse — an award-winning group of sand carvers that regularly participates in the Sun and Sea Festival — will construct a three-dimensional, two-story structure. As a nod to the event’s name, the design centers on a giant sandcastle with various Imperial Beach references, along with a cityscape resembling downtown San Diego’s skyline.

“In Imperial Beach, we have sandcastles kind of ingrained in our culture because we’ve been doing these events for so long,” IB Posse member Leonard Gonzales says, adding that blending elements of the two cities symbolizes how the region became known as the self-described “Sandcastle Capital.”

Gonzales estimates that it will take about 70 tons of sand to build the structure, which is about three times the size of anything IB Posse has ever created in its nearly 40 years of existence. The sandcastle has tentative measurements of 20 feet tall and 30 to 40 feet long.

IB Posse members at Sun and Sea Festival on Saturday, July 13, 2019.
IB Posse members Mark Durazo and Dominic Williams at Sun and Sea Festival on Saturday, July 13, 2019.
(Rick Nocon)

“It’s kind of an engineering feat to get sand to stand that high and for it to stay long enough to be able to let enough of the spectators to come and see it,” Gonzales says.

To complete the project, six to eight members of IB Posse will work daily from 10 a.m. to dusk. The group will also enlist the help of friends and visiting artists — including some from longstanding rival teams — for a common goal of completing the ambitious community project.

The public is invited to visit the construction site anytime during the process. There isn’t a set completion date but Gonzales says the group aims to wrap up by Wednesday. And while in year’s past kids were invited to knock down sandcastles after the competition, this time around the IB Posse’s structure will be fenced in and remain on display indefinitely.

IB Posse's structure from the 2019 Sun and Sea Festival in Imperial Beach.
(Jake Meyer)

While there is no professional competition this year, the youth-only contest — Kids-n-Kastles — returns to Dunes Park at 8:30 a.m. Saturday. Children 5 to 12-years-old can participate by registering online at sunandseafestival.com/kids-n-kastles-team-registration. All updated COVID-19 health and safety regulations will be followed, including reducing capacity from 20 to 12 teams.

For next year, Gonzales says the festival will be “just as big, if not bigger” than before. In the meantime, IB Posse is doing whatever it takes to keep the sandcastle culture alive.

"(The Sun and Sea Festival) is not going away,” Gonzales says. “Sandcastles do get taken away by the tide but they come back and we get to build them again.”

Sandcastle City

When: Building scheduled today through Wednesday, with public viewing extended through Aug. 22

Where: Portwood Pier Plaza, 940 Seacoast Drive, Imperial Beach

Tickets: Free

Online: sunandseafestival.com


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