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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.

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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