47th Nantucket Sandcastle Contest Draws Dozens Of Participants

JohnCarl McGrady •

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The Nantucket Island School of Design and the Arts (NISDA) held its 47th annual sandcastle building contest at Jetties beach on Saturday, drawing 52 participants and dozens of spectators. The competitors spent four hours constructing their sand castles, vying for ribbons in three categories.

“It’s just our way of saying thank you for being part of the community,” said NISDA founder Kathy Kelm. The event is not a fundraiser for NISDA, which spends more money on it than they make from registration fees, and is instead a celebration of community, with anyone on Nantucket welcome to attend.
“If there’s a group of kids who can’t afford it, or their parents can’t afford it, we invite them to come, and we will waive the cost,” Kelm said.
Two hours after the contest began, at 2:00 p.m.., the judges arrived—but the competitors were none the wiser. For the first hour of judging, Kevin Stanton and Donnick Cary observed the sand castles incognito, before judging them more formally. A little after 4:00 p.m., the winners were finally announced as competitors and spectators alike gathered around the judges.The judges felt this was the hardest year of judging in the history of the contest, but ultimately they did have to select winners, giving ribbons to the top three finishers in all three categories, as well as honorable mention ribbons to several other competitors. Every builder was also able to get a participation ribbon after the contest ended.
First prize in the youth category went to a sculpture known as The Birdcastle. In the family category, a sand castle shaped like the jaws of a tyrannosaurus rex named T-Rex won the top ribbon and also secured the grand prize ribbon for the top sculpture in any category. A sculpture of a whale with a boat on its back dubbed Nantucket Sleigh Ride won first place in the adult category.
Kelm, who has been involved with the event since the beginning, attributes its longevity in part to the magic of sand castles. “It’s really appealing to a broad range of people,” she said. “There’s something imaginative about sand castles.”

But she also highlighted the importance of the event being family-friendly. NISDA has worked hard to ensure that family and community remain at the event’s core instead of turning it into an attempt to make money. Multiple volunteers at the event also mentioned the lack of alcohol as an intentional choice to maintain the contest’s family focus.

While the contenders may not be artists, Kelm says that doesn’t matter. “To me, what’s really amazing is that people who aren’t involved in being creative or sculptural, it’s amazing what they can do,” she said. “They make these sculptures that are really good.”

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