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Sandcastle Contest 101: A guide to mounting Cannon Beach’s biggest event

The 54th annual competition takes place June 9, with activities on June 8 and 10

By Brenna Visser

For Coast Weekend

Published on June 5, 2018 12:01AM

Last changed on June 6, 2018 10:34AM

A castle in the sand

Courtesy Cannon Beach Chamber of Commerce

A castle in the sand

ERICK BENGEL PHOTO
Cannon Beach’s 2014 Sandcastle Contest, which marked the event’s 50th anniversary, attracted an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 visitors. The sculpture-in-progress pictured here had a marriage proposal inscribed on it (and she said “yes”).

ERICK BENGEL PHOTO Cannon Beach’s 2014 Sandcastle Contest, which marked the event’s 50th anniversary, attracted an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 visitors. The sculpture-in-progress pictured here had a marriage proposal inscribed on it (and she said “yes”).

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Jennie and Jacob Jessop, of the team The Jessops, put the finishing touches on a car sculpture in 2014.

Erick Bengel photo

Jennie and Jacob Jessop, of the team The Jessops, put the finishing touches on a car sculpture in 2014.

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Eric Hawley, of the Pacific Northwest team Wabi Sabi, chisels away at an emperor sculpture at a previous Sandcastle Contest.

Erick Bengel photo

Eric Hawley, of the Pacific Northwest team Wabi Sabi, chisels away at an emperor sculpture at a previous Sandcastle Contest.

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The 2018 Sandcastle Contest shirts are on display at the Cannon Beach Chamber of Commerce ahead of the three-day event.

Brenna Visser photo

The 2018 Sandcastle Contest shirts are on display at the Cannon Beach Chamber of Commerce ahead of the three-day event.

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For one weekend a year for the past 53 years, the long, narrow sands of Cannon Beach change from an empty oasis into a giant sandcastle-building competition. Cars flood the beach, bonfires rage, music plays and 6-foot sculptures are built out of sand.

This year, several thousand people are anticipated to come watch it all happen Friday, June 8, through Sunday, June 10, with the main event happening Saturday, June 9.

The Cannon Beach Sandcastle Contest began in 1964 as a way to encourage people back onto the beach after a tsunami hit the Oregon Coast. Now entering its 54th year, it is the oldest sandcastle competition west of the Mississippi River.

While the Sandcastle Contest seems to come each year as dependably as the tides themselves, the annual event is the product of a years’ worth of planning and coordination. Behind the scenes are Debbie Nelson, the event’s chief organizer, and Jim Paino, the executive director of the Cannon Beach Chamber of Commerce. Together they shared what it takes to make Cannon Beach’s headline event happen.


By the numbers


(Note: These are the projected figures for 2018 based on 2017’s totals.)

• 8: The number of people on the official Sandcastle Contest committee.

• 100: The number of volunteers it takes to set up, facilitate and tear down the event.

• 1 year: The time it takes to organize one Sandcastle Contest. “In fact,” Paino added, “we’ve already done some planning for next year.”

• 8: The number of law enforcement officers on duty to help direct traffic onto the beach and keep the event safe. Usually, they are accompanied by a handful of Community Emergency Response Team members, as well.

• 20: The number of sponsorships it takes to finance the event.

• 165: The number of first-, second -and third- place medallions ordered for contest winners.

• 400: The number of participant ribbons ordered for both the sandcastle competition and the Singing Sands run on Sunday, June 10.

• 3: How many hours it takes to set up all the infrastructure on the beach the day-of, Saturday, June 9.

• 4: The number of different permits required by the city, state and health department to put on the event.

• 500: The number of cars that must be shepherded onto the beach for the day. The Sandcastle Contest is the only day where people are allowed to park on the sand in Cannon Beach without a special permit.

• 16: The number of porta-potties ordered to handle thousands of spectators and participants.

• 178-200: The number of participants Nelson and Paino expect any given year.

• 1 1/2: The number of pallets of water and soda the team orders to quench the thirst of volunteers, judges and visitors to the concession stand.

• 36: How many boxes of graham crackers are purchased for free s’mores offered at the bonfire Saturday, June 9.

• 250: The number of marshmallows needed to make enough s’mores at the bonfire.

• 216: The number of chocolate bars it takes to make enough s’mores at the bonfire.

• 400: The number of hamburgers ordered and served on average during Sandcastle Day.

• 966: The number of official Sandcastle Day T-Shirts ordered.

• 1,066: The number of yards of string it takes to mark off about 30 sandcastle-building plots on the beach.

• Unquantifiable: The amount of coffee it takes to get it all done, “although I think we mostly run off adrenaline,” Nelson said.

• Priceless: The feeling Nelson and Paino get after seeing everyone enjoy the event. “My favorite point is when you see smiles on everyone’s faces. When we’ve hit that point, I know we’ve done it,” Paino said.







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