The city's annual Fun 'n Sun Festival turns 60 this year and planners hope it will be a shindig to remember — and revisit.
The 10-day celebration, hosted by the Clearwater's Parks and Recreation Department, begins Friday and features 1,000 tons of sculpted sand, fireworks, free concerts by favorite boomer bands and country darlings, baseball and other family-friendly activities.
"With this being our 60th, we're taking the time to reimagine Fun 'n Sun," said Brian Craig, Clearwater's events and athletics coordinator.
"When we lost the parade several years ago, we needed a new mind-set, a new way to keep the tourists here after spring break, so we came up with the new Sugar Sand Festival," Craig said. "And of course, we still have all the other events that take place all over Clearwater, highlighting what's great about our city."
It's about sand, man
Earlier this year, after readers of USA Today named Clearwater Beach the best beach town in Florida, event organizers were quick to jump on the sand wagon.
"The timing couldn't have been better," said Lisa Chandler, event coordinator of the Frenchy's Sugar Sand Festival, a newcomer to the lineup of events that make up Clearwater's Fun 'n Sun Festival.
The award "was a huge honor for our area," she said. "It's our soft, white, powdery sand that separates us from other beach destinations and now we're bringing 1,000 tons of our sugar sand to life."
The event's centerpiece, the Sugar Sand Walk Exhibit, is under a 12,000-square-foot tent just south of Pier 60. It features 1,000 tons of beach sand artistically carved by master sculptors vignettes inspired by Florida and Clearwater Beach.
"The sand sculptures are about 95 percent finished," Chandler said Monday. "It's performance art. Part of the draw is that people can see these master sculptors put on the final touches inside the tent."
Organizers hope people will pose with the sand sculptures and post the photos to Facebook and other social media, creating a buzz about Clearwater Beach's charming white grit.
Tickets to the exhibit are $7, and $5 for students, seniors and military. Kids 12 and younger are free. The Sugar Sand Walk Exhibit opens from noon to 10 p.m. Friday, and continues from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. through April 28.
Additional free highlights of the Sugar Sand Festival include Frenchy's Master Sand Sculpting Competition featuring master sculptors on the last weekend; sculpting clinics; a Sugar Sand Circus; the Camp Hyatt Sand Box children's area, open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily; and more.
"We're hoping people will love it so much, they plan their vacations to coincide with Frenchy's Sugar Sand Festival," Chandler said.
Visit sugarsandfestival.com or call (727) 449-1036 for a complete listing of times and other information.
More Fun 'n Sun
Sunsets at Pier 60 Daily Festival: See artisans, street performers and entertainers daily. Hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday; 6 to 10 p.m. Monday through April 25; and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. April 26, 27 and 28. There's a fireworks display at 9 p.m. April 27 over Pier 60. More information is available at www.sunsetsatpier60.com or call (727) 449-1036.
Fun 'n Sun Summer Lovin' 60th Birthday Bash: Watch the Clearwater Threshers take on the Brevard Brewers in baseball at 6:30 p.m. Friday. Stay for Bowzer's rock 'n' roll oldies party, with Hula Hoop and hand jive dance contests. Bright House Field, 601 N Old Coachman Road. Visit threshersbaseball.com for more.
Bright House Networks Star Spectacular Blues, Bikes and BBQ: Selwyn Birchwood Band, winner of the 2013 International Blues Competition, plus others, 5 to 11 p.m. Saturday, April 20. Free. Full Throttle magazine's 10-class bike show, with registration from 5 to 8 p.m. and awards at 9 p.m. Cost to enter bike show is $10 per class. Food vendors. Downtown Clearwater, Cleveland Street (between Fort Harrison and East avenues); clearwaterstarspectacular.com.
Fun 'n Sun Disc Golf Tournament: Tampa Bay Disc Sports Club presents Frisbee golf at Cliff Stephens Park. April 26-28. Visit discgolfunited.com.
Bright House Networks presents Clearwater's Blast Friday: Free concert with Firefall, food, beer, wine and vendors. 5:30 to 10 p.m. April 26. Cleveland Street in downtown Clearwater. Visit blastfridayclearwater.com or call (727) 791-7400.
Sun Toyota Fun 'n Sun Celebration presented by Q105: Concert featuring America, Air Supply, Departure (Journey tribute band) and more, April 27. Free general admission; $25 and up for reserved seating and VIP Hospitality. Gates open at 1 p.m. Coachman Park, 301 Drew St. Visit funnsunclearwater.com.
Sun Toyota Fun 'n Sun Celebration presented by WQYK: This year's main stage lineup features Billy Currington, Colt Ford and more. April 28. Fireworks after the concert. Free general admission; $25 and up for reserved seating and VIP Hospitality. Gates open at noon. Coachman Park, 301 Drew St. Visit funnsunclearwater.com.
Terri Bryce Reeves can be reached at [email protected]