Block the Beach, Charge a Fee to Pay for New Sandcastle Competition

Organizers want to apply a "reverse marketing" campaign to limit Sun & Sea Festival crowd size on the Imperial Beach shoreline that at one time hosted the largest sandcastle competition in the world.

Efforts to bring sand sculpting back to Imperial Beach continue to move forward, and the next few months may be critical in deciding whether a sandcastle competition is held in the city next year.

Headed by Kiwanis Club President Deric Fernandez and PR firm manager Julia Simms, the plan begins with reviving the Sun & Sea Festival. The details are still being hammered out and could change, but the Sun & Sea Festival would take place in spring or fall 2013.

A day prior to the adult's sandcastle competition, a parade, pancake breakfast and kids sandcastle competition will be held.

For the Sun & Sea Festival, a critical question will not be how to attract people, but how to keep them away.

 Organizers want to employ a "reverse marketing" campaign to shrink the event down to about 40,000 people, or about 10 percent the size of the U.S. Open Sandcastle Competition.

After 31 years, U.S. Open competitions came to a close in 2011, but grew to become the largest in the world, attracting an estimated 400,000 people at its height. No one really knows how many people will actually show up if a competition is held in 2013, Simms said.

"Maybe it will backfire and we only get 20,000 that day, and we'll know how to structure next year," she said.

One major part of the reverse marketing strategy: access to the beach may be blocked and an admission fee charged in order to control crowd size and raise money.

"We plan to have barricades up at 2nd Street and restrict access," Fernandez told Imperial Beach Chamber of Commerce members at their meeting earlier this month.

A meeting with representatives from the Sheriff's Department has not taken place yet, but smaller crowds may be critical to avoid high sheriff security costs, Simms said.

Forcing attendees to pay admission may also attract "a more desirable audience," Simms said, instead of "gangs and the hoodlums the sheriff's department was worried about in years past."

A private firm may also be asked to help with security.

Sun & Sea Festival attendees may be charged $5 per adult and $1 per child with family and online purchase discounts possibly available.

Imperial Beach residents would be allowed free entry with an ID card or proof of residency, Simms said.

Beach access can be limited for a period of time if an event is not held during the summer, but charging admission and restricting access may require a permit, said Le McEeachern, District Regulatory Supervisor of the California Coastal Commission.

Other tactics that may be employed to limit attendance:

  • keep "sandcastle competition" out of the title
  • no street vendors
  • no more all-day concerts to accompany sand sculpting
  • paid parking at designated sites only

Sponsors will be sought to help pay for the event. 

A sponsorship proposal will be sent to the Port of San Diego at the end of October.

A detailed event plan and final budget are scheduled to be completed by the end of November.

Meetings with local volunteers may begin in December.

Unlike the U.S. Open Sandcastle Competition, part of the focus of the Sun & Sea Festival will be to encourage shopping at local businesses. 

Instead of 100-plus street vendors, local businesses will be encouraged to participate and hold sidewalk sales.

This will not include businesses away from the waterfront, but people who come to Imperial Beach within two weeks of the event to make purchases of $20 or more will get a free ticket, Simms said.

At the IB Chamber of Commerce October meeting, Simms and Fernandez asked the IB chamber to be a sponsor and include the event in their liability insurance.

Some chamber members offered thanks and congratulations for doing the necessary work to bring a sandcastle competition back to Imperial Beach, while others were more skeptical about yet-to-be-decided details.

"Every business owner on Seacoast Drive is going to tell you that they want it back, cause they funded the rest of their year in that one weekend," said Athena Hohenberg, who was part of the U.S. Open Sandcastle Committee.

No studies were ever conducted to measure the economic impact of the U.S. Open Sandcastle Competition.

Business Improvement District chair Mike Osborne said he refuses to vote on the matter until the fate of money made by the Sun & Sea Festival is clearly defined.

Simms suggested that the chamber could receive additional funds and use the money to pay for future Sun & Sea festivals and other events.

Initial estimates are that $20,000 may be raised in the event's first year, Simms said.

Simms marketing firm San Diego PR would lead most efforts to organize the Sun & Sea Festival together with volunteers and local groups like the Kiwanis Club of Imperial Beach and the Fleet Reserve Association.

San Diego PR would be paid an undetermined amount for helping to coordinate the event.

Her other firm, Che, formerly known as J Simms Agency, went out of business earlier this year. Che represented the City of Imperial Beach until July when the city canceled their $15,000 contract to save money.

Che also acted as the marketing agency for the U.S. Open Sandcastle Competition in the past.

Earlier this year, Simms led an attempt to get a 2012 sandcastle competition going, but that effort was abandoned "due to budget issues, road repairs on Seacoast Drive and the sand replenishment project," a statement read.

Those interested in volunteering are encouraged to contact Deric Fernandez at deric2001@yahoo.com or call 619-400-9037.

What do you think about charging people to come to the Sun & Sea Festival? Can attendance be kept at or below 40,000? Is it OK to restrict beach access, even for a day? Share in comments.

Shorebird October 23, 2012 at 03:46 PM
certainly limiting vendors to local cafe's, artists and crafters is a great idea. Where will people park (Always an issue in the past) will there be a shuttle for the handicapped and seniors.? I will say I never saw busloads of seniors here in the past, but then I could barely get out of my own driveway due to street closures and visitors parking everywhere.
Eileen Bannan-Hanson October 23, 2012 at 03:49 PM
Libi...My family and other families camped in our RVs at 25 of the 31 Sandcastles. We all live in IB but wanted our kids/grandkids to have fun with us near by so we stayed over night Thurs thru Sun nights each year. The "gangs and hoodlums" were NOT wimpy. We witnessed stabbings, serious gang fights, and other scary situations. Several times my "big" husband and his big friends stepped in to stop gang banger punks from harrassing older people. The gang problems were there and they were dangerous. The massive police presence was what kept the violence lid on best they could. We love the Sandcastles and were very disappointed when they were cancelled. The problem was finding the money to afford the security needed to keep the massive crowds safe. Maybe some IB officials didn't like Sandcastles but many did and still do. A big Thank You to Bud Harpin and the other original Sandcastle organizers who worked very hard for many years to keep the Sandcastles in IB. Hopefully this new plan will work and bring the Castles back to IB
Shorebird October 23, 2012 at 04:05 PM
Eileen Bannon-Hanson Thank you..Indeed there has been problems with crowd control and if one never saw a thug, hoodlum or gang member perhaps it was completely foreign to them. I have seen them portrayed in movies and right here in IB.
Eileen Bannan-Hanson October 23, 2012 at 04:08 PM
Great ideas for local venders, I also think that the vendors who are in IB every Friday for the Farmers Market should be invited. Back in the early days the vendors included many local youth groups...Mar Vista Cheerleaders selling ice cream, girls softball (both Bobby Sox then ASA) selling soda/ candy. hot dogs, etc. Local crafters had booths as did the various Veteran organizations. There were a few profession out of town venders, mostly for different ethnic food. We didn't make a ton of money but the earnings greatly helped the local organizations. I worked the girls softball booth for years and the only problem was the Health Dept making sure we all had screens around our entire booth! Local and small is fun too.
Paula Winchester October 23, 2012 at 04:20 PM
Limiting vendors to locals only and removing music is a bad idea. To think that people would pay $5 each to come to the beach and simply watch people build sand castles alone is nonsense. It's akin to watching paint dry. The whole idea of the event is the entire package. Yes they want to see the sand castles but they also like eating the "fair" food and buying the t-shirts and hats etc. I think the sand castle competition is just more of an excuse to come to the beach and enjoy the day. I really liked seeing the corporate sponsor booths the last time. Imperial Beach got so much free advertisement that I was flabbergasted when the event was pulled! Who is responsible for paying to stick our curbs out into the streets, making bike riders easy prey for motorists, but claims we can't afford the sand castles? Seriously!
Libi Uremovic October 23, 2012 at 04:23 PM
'... I really liked seeing the corporate sponsor booths the last time..." you are from another planet
Paula Winchester October 23, 2012 at 04:31 PM
Corporate sponsor are where we get our free advertising. We can't afford to buy that kind of exposure to how great our little town is.
Libi Uremovic October 23, 2012 at 04:37 PM
local musicians too...we've got a lot of great artists in ib...we just need to showcase them the new hotel is going to be branding ib as a haven for artists, nature lovers, & the upscale bohemian crowd... ...it gives ib a unique image that we can build upon...
Libi Uremovic October 23, 2012 at 04:49 PM
more and more people are moving away from 'buying cheap' from china or going to amusement parks and and are looking for products made in this state and country... people from other countries will still pay top dollar for an american made product...we can frame an image for ib as a place where a person can expect to find local artists and quality products and yes it will draw people in for an event...and return because they found something unique... people buy pies because they say 'julian' .... julian doesn't produce magical pies... but people buy the pies because of the image they have about julian.... we can do the same thing with ib because we have the same basic set up... the town is isolated and surrounded by nature... ...but we have a more appealing nature.....in my opinion...
Deric Fernandez October 23, 2012 at 05:03 PM
For those who would like to make an impact in our community please sign up as a volunteer for this event. Send me your contact info: deric2001@yahoo.com It takes a village!
Libi Uremovic October 23, 2012 at 05:08 PM
developing an artists/craftsmen image is good for the community as a whole because people will be developing their own sources of income... and having a business in the home is very important because of tax write offs for part of their rent/mortgage as a business expense... in cali it's a lot of money and it's important for people to take advantage of the loopholes... ...it's the only way for middle class to survive.....
Eileen Bannan-Hanson October 23, 2012 at 06:00 PM
Deric, I would be interested in helping with the Sandcastle project. My contact info is eileenofib@cox.net
Eileen Bannan-Hanson October 23, 2012 at 06:07 PM
I like the artist concept. Unique and original crafts are very attractive to buyers. And I really like giving IB a reputation for great original art! Does everyone know about the stain glass store in the center on Rainbow and Palm? Really nice items, plus they do custom work.
Shorebird October 23, 2012 at 06:07 PM
corporate sponsors? What?
Salinde October 23, 2012 at 08:17 PM
Gangs YES, Libi as usual you are very out of touch. I have personally witnessed over the years multiple gang related fights, gang related stabbings in the fights and have clearly seen gang members carrying firearms, pistols sticking out of the there waistbands. Over the years it has gotten worse and worse, they are there, make no doubt about it, granted not so much on the beach, I have only seen it happening in the vendor areas. How do know? Well by asking the Police Officers about the incidents after they happened.
Andy Arciga October 23, 2012 at 09:29 PM
To charge for an event that's been free for 30yrs,is not practical. The logistics and money it would cost to employ would be a huge gamble. Hoping people would pay for an event that before was free. I have seen the event go slowly down hill over the years. The economy played a big part and sponsors began to drop off. I don't know what the answer is but charging is not it.
Libi Uremovic October 23, 2012 at 09:59 PM
a local food artist told me she wanted to get a booth space about 5 years ago but they were charging $700 for crafts and $1,000 for food booths... that's too much for the locals and artists...and it explains why there's so much processed food booths ... cheap crap has a high rate of profit... ib is a great festival area and families could make a living or supplement their incomes by working festivals and different events hosted by the city... bringing in outside vendors does nothing for the local economy....we're allowing people to come in and take money out of an event that the community is paying for... a 'profitable event' would be one that enriched the community...there's no reason to have 400,000 people come into town if most of the money they spend goes out of town......if the vendors are from out of town the money goes out of town with them...and the locals are stuck with the bills...
Libi Uremovic October 23, 2012 at 10:05 PM
a club could run bike-taxis to make money...maybe the track and field team since they already have the leg muscles...
Jon Hall October 23, 2012 at 10:20 PM
Another fine IB idea --- attempt to limit access to property not even owned by the city (remember, the beach, pier, and tidelands are all Port District land) ...
Jack Fisher October 24, 2012 at 03:18 AM
Ok so here's my idea. How about we all volunteer to help with the event on the grassroots level and let our ideas shine there. Criticism is not going to help, what is needed is sweat and hard work to bring back the event so many of us love. We can help showcase our town once again. Let's go IB Sandcastle 2013......
Shorebird October 24, 2012 at 03:31 AM
Well, it's all great until every mastermind/ genius has a better idea..where were all these people in the past 10 years? They all want change and better life in IB, just don't ask them for energy or money, or to consider a different way of doing things
IBlgonzales October 24, 2012 at 03:45 AM
It is very funny how far people stray from the points made in the article. The idea of an entry fee was brought up to limit the number of attendees to somewhere close to 40K. The money made would probably go toward offsetting the need for multiple corporate sponsors and hopefully could keep down the cost vendors pay to have booths. The big event was so indebted to the security and permitting costs that they had raise money however they could, hence the need for commercialization. To make it work it's going to take everyone (that care's) putting their heads together...not complaining about every idea that gets floated across the net. Deric I'll be contacting you to see how I can help.
Libi Uremovic October 24, 2012 at 01:49 PM
i went back to an old patch article and found this: "...Grants awarded to the city previously paid about $45,000 in Sheriff's Department security costs, but that money is no longer avaialable, said spokesperson Julia Simms, and the city is now asking Sandcastle organizers to come up with the money...."The state of the economy is the real reason for the loss of the grant money," Longley said....'' who told the sandcastles people that....the city? ib had $2 million contributions line on their financial statements - but they have removed the line and the $2 million has disappeared...
Libi Uremovic October 24, 2012 at 02:04 PM
it's ok for people to have ideas jon......exchanging information is how we learn and grow... it's how we work out our problems.... identifying the problems and finding solutions is the only way to progress and to change our current situation for the better... we need to focus on the fact that the reason sandcastles was closed down was because the city wanted to close it down... and they closed it down... ...it wasn't because of budget cuts or gangs or too many people or access to the beach...it was because our elected and appointed officials do not serve the people that pay them..
Melissa October 24, 2012 at 04:30 PM
I live on the 100 block of Elkwood how will we be allowed to enter the event. my daughters do not have ID to show proof of residence
Shorebird October 24, 2012 at 05:50 PM
I would think there might be a "Family admission" for people with school age children who do not have ID. Most JR, High and High school children had student body iD's. But grade school and toddlers certainly would be considered under a family pass if they are with their parents or caregivers. How about some common sense?
Christie Kay Wieber October 24, 2012 at 06:02 PM
We dont need more sheriffs! And we sure as hell didnt need the over abundance that was hired for Sandcastle. I witnessed 2 such sheriffs hauling ass down 9th street the night before the event even started. Im with Libi....get rid of our sidewinding city councel and other city govenment officials who are self serving morons!
Libi Uremovic October 25, 2012 at 06:07 AM
ib has a large military population... we can hire our local groups like vet clubs and clubs the military kids are in to provide security ...it's their town, they have the security background, and the money paid stays in the community... if we can match the needs of the festival with the abilities of the community the millions of dollars that transact stays in the community ...and that would have a major impact on our economy... we have kid & adult sports teams, various clubs, and the general public that could use an influx of money.... the schools could have booths... 8th grade class or the prom committee could make thousands of dollars in one weekend instead of struggling for money all year around... nobody travels to buy popcorn from a random vendor, but if the boy scouts were selling popcorn they could market themselves and pull in supporters
Pop Quiz February 06, 2013 at 03:37 AM
Hey John it smells funny because it is illegal, but it is fun to watch puppies chase their tails ! Public access to the coast is the law....
Pop Quiz February 06, 2013 at 03:42 AM
Jon, please limit the use of common sense,,your ruining this ;-)


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