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Want Sandcastles Back? Volunteers Needed for Event to Return

If enough public interest isn't shown, plans for a sandcastle competition in Imperial Beach in late summer may not come to fruition.

Updated at 12:57 p.m. Feb. 28.

If the people of Imperial Beach want a sandcastle competition to return to IB in 2013, the city said, they're going to have to help.

"People need to know this is sort of a critical decision point," said Imperial Beach City Manager Gary Brown. "They've got to be serious. I mean to come down and just say I love the event and not step forward aint going to cut it."

After 31 years, increasing costs and a lack of volunteers led the U.S. Open Sandcastle Committee to disband in 2011, said chair Debbie Longley.

At its height, the U.S. Open Sandcastle Competition attracted hundreds of thousands of people and was Imperial Beach's biggest event of the year for decades.

Earlier this month the Port of San Diego agreed to fund the first three years of a new sandcastle event.

Kent Trollen runs the company Sand Castles Unlimited and has organized more than 20 sandcastle competitions. He is working with the Port and Gordon Summer, who helped raise funds for the U.S. Open, to put together a new one-day sandcastle competition in IB.

Together with the help of sandcastle teams like Archisand, Sand Squirrels and I.B. Posse, Trollen and Summer hosted a new competition on the Broadway Pier downtown last August.

"We met with the port staff yesterday and the potential manager and their big question was is there really local support in terms of volunteering for the local event?" Brown said.

To measure the public's willingness to volunteer, a meeting will be held Thursday March 7 in the Community Room at City Hall at 6 p.m.

The Imperial Beach Chamber of Commerce, Imperial Beach Business Improvement District and local schools have been notified via email, Brown said.

"What we're simply saying is we need help, and if people don't volunteer, they can just say let's fold up the tent," he said.

To bring the competition back, Trollen said, the community is going to have to face reality and at least 40 committed volunteers will be needed.

"It's gotten to the point where the city [residents] have to be a part of it or it's not going to happen. If nobody speaks up, done deal," Trollen said.

A price estimate the group received from the sheriff's department and city emergency services essentially swallows $40,000 the Port will contribute. An additional $50,000 from sponsors or donors is needed to get the competition going and there isn't a lot of time left to raise money.

"That's kind of where it stands and really the conclusion of the meeting is all the money the port was kicking in is gone which provides no operating money to make it happen," he said. "So were starting out broke."

"These people need to step up to the plate, sign up and take responsibility or we aren't going to have an event. Because we don't have time to generate $50-$70,000 in sponsorship money," Trollen said.

Ultimately, Trollen would like to see organizers head the effort to bring a competition back then hand it over to the community.

If a sandcastle competition is held in Imperial Beach this year, a deal drawn up by the Port requires the event be held after Labor Day and act as a 50th anniversary celebration for the Port.

Holding the competition after Labor Day would also allow tickets to be sold for the event under California Coastal Commission rules.

Instead of a competition the size of the U.S. Open Sandcastle Competition, a new Port sponsored competition would aim for a scaled down competition which attracts at least 10,000 people.

Loki March 01, 2013 at 09:13 AM
My family & I will volunteer - as we did at the last event. I agree with all of the suggestions herein - i.e the need for more local vendors, more diverse music, more events throughout year, combine more activities at Sand Castle, less "guidance" by the Port - and I also question the large police presence: 1) There seems to be far too much police presence - it bankrupted the event and it is my understanding that the personnel numbers were dictated by the Sheriff's department. Personally I think their demand was purely for their benefit - not for ours. 2) Every event seems the barricades and traffic control were decided at the spur of the moment - how 'bout somebody on the law enforcement bill expend some assets on prior planning. Maybe that would reduce personnel requirement.
Libi Uremovic March 01, 2013 at 12:17 PM
let's not forget what killed sandcastles - it was the $70,000 bill from the sheriff's dept - which was a conspiracy between our corrupt officials, not a legitimate bill.... the people need to contract in advance for the additional sheriff's services - listing exactly how many additional sheriffs will be needed and exactly what that will cost... ..and no, $30,000 for a helicopter fly-over at 5pm telling people to get out of town is not needed...
Libi Uremovic March 01, 2013 at 12:23 PM
sandcastles is a major boost to local businesses ..if they had a steady flow of customers throughout the year it would be different, but small business in this town is being choked out of existence... it's a great opportunity for everyone in the community to make money...and if you don't need to make money you could at least have some respect for capitalism and the entrepreneur spirit...
Libi Uremovic March 01, 2013 at 12:40 PM
'...1) Keep Seacoast without vendors. 2) Keep all vendors in Pier area. ...' no, you don't want everyone to have to pack into the pier area - especially to get something as demanding as food... what everyone dislikes about the vendors is that they're mass produced products ....keep the vendors local and the products original... a 3-day event that brings in thousands of people is a great opportunity for families and organizations to make a large amount of money is a short amount of time...cookies, indian fry bread, lemonade, bbq,... people will want to buy things like soda pop, hot dogs, and cotton candy - so give the booths to organizations like little league or the prom committee... people drive for hours to the festivals in julian because they know they can get hand produced products...ib could create the same image ...
Libi Uremovic March 01, 2013 at 12:43 PM
where are our councilmen and chamber of commerce..? instead of working to suppress business - let's see work to generate some revenue
Tim O'Neal March 01, 2013 at 06:48 PM
Dave and Pop are right on. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day the California Coastal Commission will not allow an event to take place that interferes with the public's right to free access of California's beaches. After Labor Day the CCC will allow one day events. In the CCC's eyes, "event fees" = "limiting free access".
Tim O'Neal March 01, 2013 at 07:23 PM
I will absolutely volunteer and do whatever it takes to make this event happen with the caveat that EVERY stakeholder is on the same page (residents, businesses, event organizers, City of IB, Port, etc). In the past these groups were not unified. It's amazing that the event was able to go on for so long and really is a testament to the spirit of volunteerism that exists in our community. My first thought when the Port first made the announcement that they were actively pursuing an sandcastle event in Imperial Beach, was how would it be funded. $50,000-$70,000 is a lot of money, but Candy and I think we came up with a funding strategy that could easily hit that mark. Love everybody's comments here and everybody has made valid points whether for or against. I hope to see this type of input next week. I HEART IB
IBlgonzales March 02, 2013 at 03:07 PM
As I understand it any profits will go to the contracted Event Planning group. The Port or City of IB are government agencies, they can't provide service for a profit.This does bring business and fundraising opportunities to the community in things like parking and concessions but there's always room for improvement. It comes down to do we want this thing or not? No one else stepped up last year to take on the task now the Port has made an attempt with $$ up front. There's a lot more money still to be raised and planning to do...but why if residents don't want it or aren't willing to help. We need as many people as possible to show up at the meeting on the 7th, hopefully to volunteer, but even to give reason why you don't want sandcastles.
RUTH CLINGAN March 02, 2013 at 04:30 PM
I've been here since 1962. Sun N Sea Festival was a great event, Sandcastle was a good event when first started. Year later it was a mess, got too big for I.B. Residents living Seacoast to 3rd. They had to put up with many problems, including parking, trash thrown in their yards, fences broken, fights in front of homes, hard getting out to go someplace, cars dented, and the crime rate increased during the event. I too loved sandcastle when it was smaller. Not everyone goes to Sandcastle. A smaller ONE DAY event would be nice, with ONLY LOCAL businesses allowed to sale things to the public or have booths. As far as celebrating the PORT IN SEPT, I disagree with. This is Imperial Beach, Celebrate it, and its Birthday, not the Ports. Selling tickets to the event I totally disagree with, the beach and beach front are free for anyone. I for one would push THE EVENT REMAIN FREE, including getting a petition IF NEEDED. If funds are needed to help defer costs for some of the event, what would it be? Many volunteers in this City, including organizations, students at High Schools, and the Job Corp. The event was always suppose to be for the enjoyment of the people, competitors trying to win first place, and help bring revenue in to benefit the local business. It was not intended to be an event/means for I.B. CITY HALL to increase their funds, or any PRIVATE organization. Sponsors/donations were used for prizes/costs to hold event, and help defer some cost of the City. My opinion only.
Salinde March 02, 2013 at 04:37 PM
I love 4 blocks from the beach. I volunteer NOT to be around that mad-house and the throngs of people during the event. I'm all for it, but just to many people for me. I'm happy to see it back...but I just don't like crowds ...
Jon Hall March 02, 2013 at 04:57 PM
Very interesting comments --- demonstrates the issues that Sandcastle dealt with yearly --- the supporters versus the detractors, those who wanted to promote civic pride versus those only interested in making a buck, the family event versus the excuse to party, and lastly the rape of the city by the Sheriffs Department (no versus here --- not a person in the city has ever been able to justify the ransom) The event died for many reasons --- not the least of which was because it became too successful for IB to handle Bringing it back as a paid event isn't the answer --- unless, of course, the intent is to put on a de facto private party for the well connected, the well to do, and the movers & shakers of the region Personally I look forward to it --- it will give the locals an excuse to revive a past tradition --- party crashing ...
IBlgonzales March 02, 2013 at 05:05 PM
A lot of people aren't understanding the cost and obstacles to putting on this event. Keeping it free means more people and traffic. More people means more security, which if provided by the Sheriff comes at their rate ($$$!). Asking for a few dollars will not only thin out the crowd it also reduces the need for sponsors. Sponsors only donate if there's a big enough crowd to advertise or sell to. If the event is kept to $10k people don't count on big sponsors, so we need to charge. Closing the beach to collect money can only be done after Labor Day. I liked the days of big crowds (locals and visitors) and attention to my town, when it was Sand Castles, but I cried about that last year. It's gone. Do we want another beach festival? If we do we either put it together our way (which won't happen this year, too late)... or we let the Port help us get something done this year.
RUTH CLINGAN March 02, 2013 at 05:34 PM
If funds are needed to defer some of the costs, than have something during the event or something leading up to the event to raise funds. 50/50 raffles are always good for a big crowd, start selling tickets before event, a lot of funds can be raised if sold ahead of time. Have some big item to auction off or give away the day of the event. Something else that would be good to raise funds to help defer the costs would be a giving a car away or a free 3/4 day trip with free airline and hotel accommodations. Of course you have to find the dealer to give the car, and the airlines and hotel. Sell tickets in advance, it's done all the time at big events, and make sure winner does not have to be present. Again, I an totally against charging for the event, keep the event small and it will not draw over sized crowds for 400,000 people as in the last years of sandcastle.
IBlgonzales March 02, 2013 at 06:23 PM
These are good fund raising options.They will take some organizing... are you or others willing to do it? Keep in mind the big give aways only come from big sponsors who are looking for something in return. What are we offering a car dealership to donate a car for a raffle? They'll want thousands of people, signing up to become recipients of their spam mail. This sounds more commercial than the old Sand castles. Smaller prizes from in-town comapanies are better but will they get us $50k for the Sheriff and $30K for City permits? This is what we'll need to keep this a homegrown event. I'm willing to volunteer for any of these options but let's be realistic and make sure everyone is on board with us. The best way to find out is to get people to the meeting on Thursday.
RUTH CLINGAN March 02, 2013 at 07:36 PM
I wish I could go Thursday, but cannot unless I could get a ride. I definitely would be willing to help sell tickets. Again, this is something that would need to be done in ADVANCE. Name Recognition is a big think for any company right now. Has anyone tried asking the Local Casinos to help sponsor the event? They sponsor a lot of things, and all they want really is name recognition and a place to put some material.
Tim O'Neal March 02, 2013 at 10:15 PM
Leonard, I hear ya I also appreciated the attention that came with the big crowds, like the Travel Channel and Coastal Liiving Magazine. But what to do with 400,000 people...?
Tim O'Neal March 02, 2013 at 11:13 PM
Everyone - IF... 1.) A crowd of 400,000 is too big for Imperial Beach to handle for an event, and 2.) The Port has requested a minimum crowd of 10,000 before moving forward with an event this year, Then... What is the maximum amount of attendees you think the City / residents can safely handle and/or tolerate for an event near the beach?
Lenora Porcella March 03, 2013 at 12:29 AM
I really want to support this but I think it is just not right to plan an event that the total IB population isn't welcome at. Sheesh... 10,000 that's about 1/3 of our population. How do you get the citizens to support an event they may not be welcome at? I went to Sand Castle and I didn't think it was the numbers of people that were the problem... it was logistics in not having routes in and out that caused gridlock and chaos. In Capitola, the city makes people park in a lot outside the village and buses them in to town during the summer. Free. We could look at something like that, and address the issues, rather than just pick a number, couldn't we? With proper planning, local restuarants could make box lunches. The tickets could be for bus and lunch. That way, they'd know exactly how many lunches to make, it would be good for business, and crowd control. Close Palm and IB Blvd for the event to limit access to autos. That way, there should be a way to control numbers, traffic, provide enough food by local business, and not annoy the coastal commission. So if something like that were comtemplated, the question would really be... how many people can we handle if we don't have to deal with their cars and they have food? I would think way more than 10,000...
Salinde March 03, 2013 at 01:18 AM
Now Imagine the traffic with the single lanes now on Palm.
IBlgonzales March 03, 2013 at 01:36 AM
I don't think anybody is trying to exclude IB residents. It's just a target number being used for planning. It's a much more realistic number than 400,000 which never happened. In the hayday Sandcastles may have gotten between 200-300,000 over two days. Even that number was probably inflated to get big $ sponsors. A one day event would only get 1/2 of this, but would still bring traffic problems would dictate the amount of police presence. The bus idea has been considered and would help alleviate some of the traffic. Event planners would need to find and rent a few parking lots with easy access for the crowds to park and wait for the bus. Volunteers would be needed at each end of the bus route to coordinate. We need the money and the volunteers and it can happen.
Tim O'Neal March 03, 2013 at 01:56 AM
Lenora - Let me clarify... the Port pledged $40,000 to have a sandcastle event in IB in 2013. Their contribution was contingent upon a planner who would 1.) attract at least 10,000 people, 2.) incorporate a children's competition like the Kids N' Kastles Competition 3.) use few vendors 4.) generate traffic for local businesses 5.) incorporate community participation 6.) hold the event in Pier Plaza (http://imperialbeach.patch.com/articles/sancastle-competitions-imperial-beach-2013-port-of-san-diego) So the 10,000 is just the minimum attendance required by the Port to make it worth their $40,000. Like Leonard said, big time sponsorship money only comes with big time crowds. In this case the Port has set the bar pretty low at 10,000 attendees for their $40k. You want a sponsor to donate a car or pay you big bucks to be the title sponsor, you're looking at an event with 500,000
Paul Dykes March 03, 2013 at 03:01 AM
Yeah, what she said! :)
Lenora Porcella March 03, 2013 at 03:02 AM
Tim, Ahh... Thank you. LOL! Clearly I goofed and misunderstood about the 10,000 people. I do wish the Port would hold a community meeting for input from residents however as we have little say about what goes on. I would do a lot for good will. I think I'll just say Thank You to the Port and shut up now and see what the event planner comes up with. My bad. :-)
Paul Dykes March 03, 2013 at 03:06 AM
I'm with ya too, Tim!
Tim O'Neal March 03, 2013 at 03:37 AM
Lenora - The reason i asked for everyone's opinion on a "maximum" crowd size is because I'm like you....I don't think it's the number of people coming that's the problem as much as it is how you control them. If you allow 400,000 people to arrive by car, and then you allow them to pretty much park wherever they can "find a spot", right off the bat you are giving visitors the impression that no one is in control. Let's face it, some people act like heathens when their out in public and haven't perfected the art of civility like us IB locals :) From 2007-2009 I worked a booth at the San Juan Capistrano Swallows Day Parade. Thousands of people attend this event which includes the nation's largest non-motorized parade immediately followed by a western themed street fair. No public parking is provided within walking distance of the "event zone". If you want to attend this event you either get dropped off, take public transit, or drive 5 minutes north to Mission Viejo Community College and jump on one of the shuttles that leaves every 5 minutes. Parking was free, shuttles were school buses and cost $2 one way or $3 round trip. Entrance to the event is free and event security is provided by the Orange County Sheriff's Deputies and 1/11 Marines based out of Camp Pendleton. Capistrano, Capitola...two examples of how other cities control event crowds.
Tim O'Neal March 03, 2013 at 08:18 AM
1.) Too bad there's not a huge piece of property within IB's city limits where you could literally park thousands of cars for an event... 2.) Too bad there's no vacant lots on Seacoast Drive or Old Palm Ave where someone could partner with a property owner to set up a "bike valet" to give bicyclists a safe, secure area to park their bikes after flying down Palm Ave's new Eco Bikeway. To bad there's not a coalition or even a County Supervisor that cares about bicycling enough to help spread the word about the "bike valet". 3.) Too bad there's no way to find hundreds of professional, trained, disciplined volunteers who, with just one phone call, we would available for a variety of tasks. 4.) Too bad there isn't another law enforcement agency, with jurisdiction in Imperial Beach, that could help mitigate the security costs of a beach event. 5.) To bad we just couldn't stop the "street fair" element of the event and immediately see a reduction in shootings, stabbings, and general chaos. To bad the solutions to the above queries arre irrelevant because the Port has already crowned a new royal family of sandcastles in San Diego. Ladies and gentlemen I present to you a "signature event" for the City and Port of San Diego, THIS LABOR DAY WEEKEND... http://www.festivals.com/viewevent.aspx?eventid=zhS82tkq8tk%3D ...I'm still in for a Kid's & Kastles event...
Tim O'Neal March 03, 2013 at 08:37 AM
Yep...pretty bad. And don't even mention the word TSUNAMI to anyone living on The Plank side of Ocean Lane. Last one out of town is a rotten egg! Oh wait...there's a good chance that might be me!
Libi Uremovic March 03, 2013 at 02:08 PM
we can't blame san diego for grabbing a great family event that's a primo money maker ...that's no one's fault but our corrupt city officials and the people for letting them get away with it......but to respond to some of your points: 1. the 9th/palm hole in the ground will hold hundreds of cars 2. that would be a small business enterprise.... this city/county/country suppresses small business and individual rights... 3. the patch is the wave of the future...real-time communication and information sharing.. 4. the sheriff's contract is to provide law enforcement services, but it doesn't exclude volunteer or other security groups...this is a good opportunity for church, military, biker, or other 'group of guys' clubs to volunteer to do patrols.... 5. yes, we want quality, not quantity of people ...sand-sculpting on the beach pared with local food, crafts, games, and entertainment will bring in a middle-class family/artsy crowd ... i don't know where the 400,000 people figure came from, but 10,000/day for 3 days would be more than enough to make the restaurants and vendors happy and boost the economy... if the port authority offered the event to ib then we need to hope that festivals.com is jumping the gun and we still have a chance to get the event in september or october..
Tim O'Neal March 03, 2013 at 05:08 PM
The Port, City of San Diego, and the Sculpting Challenge organizers "get it". They see the upside that results from having this unique, family-oriented event in their city. They took an event that IB had a monoply on for 31 years, added an art element, ditched the "street fair", and brought in gourmet food trucks to feed the masses. In creating rhis "new signature event" it took San Diego, the Port, and Sculpting Challenge organizers less than two years to do what IB sandcastle stakeholders couldn't do in 31 years. Anybody else see the irony in the fact that over the course of 31 years IB's sandcastle event broguht millions of visitors to Seacoast Dr, only to be greeted by vacant lots, a run-down hotel, and a 100 types of fried food on sticks; but now that the new hotel is close to completion and the vision for Seacoast Drive looks a little brighter (pun intended), we have no Sandcastles, no 4th of July Fireworks, or any future summer events firmly set in stone. Perhaps our current circumstances are not just a coincidence. BTW, answers I would have accepted: 1.) Mar Vista Middle, old Marian Catholic High School, and my favorite...Ream field 2.) Supervisor Greg Cox and the SD County Bicycle Coalition could help us encourage bicycling to an event 3.) I was thinking the Navy but I will accept Patch 4.) The Port's own Harbor Police, whose jurisdiction extends through IB. 5.) We can. The US Sandsculpting Challenge proves it.
Serge Dedina March 04, 2013 at 01:04 AM
Hi Ruth: I also have wonderful memories of Sun-N-Sea from when I was a kid. Used to love the dory races, swim-around the pier, and the art festival. I also vividly remember the first year of Sandcastle since I was an IB lifeguard then--it was super cool and hometown. I hope the new event stays grassroots-free of charge and about IB and our great community.

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