50th sand sculpture contest set for Friday

August 8, 2023

50th sand sculpture contest set for Friday 

PENTWATER — This year’s Sand Sculpture Contest at Charles Mears State Park Friday, Aug. 11, is the 50th annual.

The contest, which is part of the 93rd Homecoming celebration, takes place on the Lake Michigan beach at Charles Mears State Park.

It draws sculptors of all ages, and trophies will be awarded to 21 teams whose entries are judged to best reflect Pentwater’s 2023 Homecoming theme: “50 Years of Sand Sculpting.”

The Pentwater Sand Sculpture Contest was founded in 1974 by the late Al Ringquist who, at age 26, chose to make a life in Pentwater with his new wife, Alice. Ringquist opened the Leprechaun Shop and sold custom furniture and cabinetry. He also crafted small wooden toys, and a few are on display in the Pentwater Historical Museum. Ringquist’s community involvement is best known from his idea to hold a contest at the state park beach where folks would come and sculpt along the beautiful sandy shoreline. A few of the earliest participants remember the wonderful wooden sand castles Ringquist created and awarded to the children participating.  

Always a part of Pentwater’s Homecoming activities, the Pentwater Chamber of Commerce continued the tradition that Ringquist started and eventually the Pentwater Service Club assumed responsibility working closely with the chamber. 

Contestants sculpt designs in the sand that demonstrate each year’s Pentwater Homecoming theme.

Ann Sayles, who with her family has participated for 43+ years, has won an award several times. “I think it’s great fun for family and friends.” She remembers the wooden sandcastles that Al Ringquist made and gave to children. Her kids loved to play with them.  

Sherry and Ray Kloostra describe their family’s involvement over the years. “Our kids and grandkids would arrive in Pentwater from different places; sit on the front porch the night before; and plan their design, sometimes pulling an all-nighter. “Our equipment-filled wagon would be loaded and ready to go to the beach that morning.”  

There are numerous possibilities for this year’s design including, perhaps, recreating favorite sand sculptures that teams have created in the past. There are also plenty of sand sculpting ideas and tips online for using water spritzers, shovels, buckets, watering cans, spoons, putty scrapers, brushes, trowels, butter knives, and drinking straws.    

There is no entry fee. Entering teams are assigned to either one of four age group categories; 1-7, 8-9, 10-12, 13 and over (determined by the age of the oldest youth), or one of three group/family categories. The finished works are judged on four criteria: adherence to this year’s Homecoming theme, creativity, attention to detail, and neatness. Sculptures can only be decorated with naturally uprooted dune grass, feathers and driftwood found on the  ‎beach. Judges will disregard when judging any decorating items that are foreign to the beach, or any just-pulled dune grass because it helps protect the shoreline from erosion.  

Registration at the state park pavilion begins at 8 a.m. Friday. Teams sculpt between 8 and 11 a.m., when judging begins and the public comes by to view the various entries. There is a short awards program at noon with trophies awarded to winning teams. For more information, check out the Pentwater Sand Sculpture Contest community page on Facebook.  

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