But rarely have they seen sand they like as much as the stuff that makes up the beach in Port Aransas, Kalyuzhna said.
"It's very good. ... No stones," said Kalyuzhna, a 31-year-old artist who is visiting the United States for the first time ever, to participate in SandFest, on the beach in Port Aransas. "It's a pleasure to work with such sand."
Kalyuzhna and her boyfriend, Vazhynskyi, are among 27 master sand sculptors who will be competing professionally in the 11th annual SandFest, Friday, March 30, to Sunday, April 1. The festival, to be on the beach between miles Markers 8 and 11, is expected to draw thousands of spectators over the three-day period if good weather prevails.
SandFest features the work of dozens of competing amateur and professional sand sculptors.
SandFest currently is the biggest overall sand-sculpting competition in the country, said Dee McElroy, event director of SandFest.
"It's the fact we have 27 sand sculp- tors coming, the fact we attract over 100,000 people, the fact we're three days long, the fact we have over 200 amateur contestants and five different sand competitions going on," McElroy said. "So, it's all of those things that make us the largest."
Each year, SandFest's intricately carved large-scale sculptures display a wide spectrum of subject matter, from the whimsically humorous to the solemnly serious. Last year, a creation titled "The Pirate Bunnies of Easter Island," showed a group of cartoonish rabbits wearing pirate garb and posing with a treasure chest. Also last year, a work titled "Please Keep My Brother Safe" depicted a gun-toting U.S. soldier nestled between two huge, protective hands.
Perhaps SandFest's biggest grabber each year is the event's towering centerpiece sculpture, carved from 250 tons of sand.
SandFest also includes booths and tents with souvenirs, food, auctions, jewelry, art and much more. A youth tent will include a sand box, games, coloring contest, shell game and other activities.
Other attractions will include a pet contest, photo contest, face painting, beachcombing presentation and live music. Master sculptors at Lesson Mountain will give free sand sculpting lessons.
(A schedule of SandFest events are on Page 6A of this issue of the South Jetty.)
Parking will be available on the beach, as long as cars have the beach parking permit stickers that all vehicles must have by law to park on the beach. However, so many people likely will attend SandFest that folks might have a hard time finding parking spaces that are not hundreds of yards down the beach from the festival.
One solution to the parking situation could be taking the Port Aransas Trolley Shuttle at 25 cents a ride. The trolley runs a circuit through Port Aransas and drops folks off at several locations on the beach. The drops closest to SandFest will be on the beach at Sand Castle Road and also at Access Road 1-A.
Another solution: Motorists may park in the large parking lot at Sharkey 's, at 2600 Hwy. 361, and then take a free shuttle to the SandFest grounds, courtesy of SandFest and the Texas Treasure.
Throughout most of its 11-year existence, SandFest has been under the umbrella of the non-profit Port Aransas Community Theater. Proceeds from SandFest festivals helped build PACT's new theater building, which was dedicated in January 2006.
PACT's board of directors voted last summer to allow SandFest to spin off as a separate non-profit organization. Now SandFest plans to benefit a variety of non-profit organizations each year with proceeds from the annual festival. This year, proceeds will benefit PACT, Friends of the ARK, the Port Aransas Food Pantry and the Art Center for the Islands.
The non-profit organizations will get a cut of proceeds from the event in exchange for supplying volunteers to help run the festival.
More information about SandFest is available at www.texassandfest. com.