One of Clearwater's longest-running traditions features a brand new companion event starting Friday. The Sugar Sand Festival is part of the 60th annual Fun and Sun Festival and highlights Clearwater Beach's most valuable asset: white, powdery sand.
For Pier 60 proprietor Lisa Chandler, the Sugar Sand Festival realizes a vision.
"This vision actually got started about eight years ago," she said Wednesday, referring to master sculptor Mark Mason's photos of a "tour through" sand sculpture display in South Africa. "She saw those pictures and registered something" Mason recalled, "Now we've got it on Clearwater Beach."
Mason and other sculptors are creating several pieces inside a giant tent. There will be an admission charge to see those but others will appear outside the tent next week: The artists will compete for a $5,000 cash prize.
"We're all amicable now but boy, come Thursday, it's all tooth and nails because we're solos, against each other," Mason said.
The Sugar Sand and Fun and Sun Festivals run for 10 days, starting this Friday. Each day features a variety of activities, most of them free of charge.
Chandler said she hopes the sand component re-brands and rejuvenates the older festival, with the same motivation: Add on to the winter tourism season, which traditionally winds down at Easter.
"We all don't know what to expect the first year," said Joelle Castelli, spokesman for the City of Clearwater, "The sponsors, the visitors, everybody's just trying to get their head around just what it is this first year, so it will probably be bigger and evolved next year."
FOX 13's Charley Belcher was out previewing the event Thursday morning. Check out his videos.
More information is available at sugarsandfestival.com