1. Clearwater

It's our turn: Amateurs get a crack at competing in Clearwater's Sugar Sand Festival

CLEARWATER — For six years now, we've watched professionals use sand to create art at the Pier 60 Sugar Sand Festival. They've made mermaids and Bob Marley and Lady Gaga and castles in the sand.

Now it's our turn.

For the first time, the festival has added both a Pro-Am Sand Sculpting Tournament on Saturday and a Family Sand Sculpting Tournament on Sunday. Both are free to enter and free to watch.

If you have some serious shovel skills, now is the time to show them off.

The festival has become so popular it has expanded to 17 days this year to absorb the more than 120,000 people expected to tour the giant tent on the beach full of professional sand sculptures.

Saturday it is holding its first Pro-Am from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the beach near Pier 60. The tournament will combine teams of professional and amateur sculptors competing for best design and execution. If you want to compete, email to register, and it's free to enter.

The family sand-sculpting contest on Easter Sunday is also free, no registration required. Show up around 1:45 p.m., and the contest begins at 2 p.m. at the Camp Hyatt Sand Box.

If you want to see the professional sculptures, it's $10 for adults; $8 children 4-10; and free for 3 and younger. Buy tickets in advance online at and you get a separate, "fast lane-entrance."

The ticketed exhibit has a new theme each year and now it's "Sea the World, A Journey around the Globe," with renowned landmarks made out of sand. There are also free concerts on the beach on the weekends, and a fireworks show on Saturday night.

The festival opens at 10 a.m. daily through April 28 at Pier 60 on Clearwater Beach.

Contact Sharon Kennedy Wynne at Follow @SharonKWn.