CLEARWATER — Talk about a sand blast. The annual Pier 60 Sugar Sand Festival on Clearwater Beach has become so popular that it is expanding this year to 17 days, opening today through April 28.
Organizers say the festival drew more than 120,000 people over 10 days last year to tour the sand sculptures under a giant tent on the beach. This year the festival is also adding nine nights of free concerts on the beach, a Pro-Am Sand Sculpting Tournament on April 20 and a Family Sand Sculpting Tournament on April 21.
No two years are alike at this ticketed exhibit because the artists are given a theme to draw their inspiration. This year it's "Sea the World, A Journey around the Globe," so expect to see renowned landmarks made out of sand. They will set up a 21,000-square-foot tent, and a photographer will be there to take a free souvenir photo. The children's ticket (age 4-10) does not include a photo, but kids are welcome to participate in the photo opp.
Buy tickets in advance online at sugarsandfestival.com and you get a separate, "fast lane-entrance" to the event and a $5 discount on all festival merchandise. Admission is $10 for adults; $8 children 4-10; and free for 3 and younger. Seniors, military, police, firefighters and teachers can get $8 admission at the gate with proper identification.
There will be fireworks at 9 p.m. Saturday as well as on April 20 and April 27. Live music runs 3-10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2-9 p.m. Sunday and on the next two weekends of the festival.
The Pro-Am Sand Sculpting Tournament will combine teams of professional and amateur sculptors competing for best design and execution from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on April 20. The Family Sand Sculpting Competition will be taking place on Easter Sunday at 2 p.m. Viewing of both those events is free.
The festival hours are 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Sundays.