2017-04-05 / Featured Stories

SandFest celebrates its 21st year


Chip Cooper won Best of Show at the first SandFest in 1997, which was sponsored by the Port Aransas Art Center, what was then the Art Center for the Islands. Chip Cooper won Best of Show at the first SandFest in 1997, which was sponsored by the Port Aransas Art Center, what was then the Art Center for the Islands. The first SandFest was held in March 1997 when “hundreds,” as opposed to “tens of thousands” in the past decade or more, attended.

Organized by the Art Center for the Islands (as the Port Aransas Art Center was known at the time) under the direction of then-executive director Sharon Schafer, the event has come to be called the Texas Sand Sculpture Festival – SandFest for short. It is the official sandsculpting contest for the State of Texas.

Celebrating its 21st anniversary this year, it has come a long way from that first effort.

Nine teams of sculptors competed in 1997. This year, 18 master and five advanced amateur sculptors will compete in master solo and duo divisions. In addition to that, up to 75 plots have been reserved for the amateur division that is expected to attract many more rookie sculptors.


Kids of all ages have fun at SandFest. The three-day festival is filled with sand sculptures, food, music, shopping and more. Kids of all ages have fun at SandFest. The three-day festival is filled with sand sculptures, food, music, shopping and more. In 1997, the South Jetty reported that cars were parked “three deep for a mile around the site,” which was just south of Horace Caldwell Pier inside the beach bollards. Today, SandFest stretches from Avenue G to Beach Access Road 1A, including parking areas.

Chip Cooper,who still creates art from sand in Port Aransas, was the winner of that first sand sculpture competition. He won a $200 Best of Show prize for his “large and unusual sand castle,” according the report in the South Jetty.

Best Entry by a Group was won by a crew from the Crazy Cajun whose members’ names many will recognize: Jason Carlough, Jared Clark, Kelly Henson, Brian Raymond and Charlie Clark.


A master sculptor prepares his base at SandFest 2016. A master sculptor prepares his base at SandFest 2016. Long-time fans of SandFest will recognize the second-place winner for best individual entry: Gloria Fric of Victoria who was so well-known for her dragon sculptures that she was referred to as “The Dragon Lady.” Cooper took first in that category.

Schafer reported at the time that the sculptors “would do it again.” And they have. For 21 years and counting.

Today, SandFest is run by a board of directors. Proceeds are divided among non-profit organizations whose members volunteer at the event, including the Port Aransas Community Theatre, Port Aransas Art Center, Helping Hands Food Pantry (an affiliate of the Corpus Christi Food Pantry), Keep Port Aransas Beautiful (part of Keep Texas Beautiful) and numerous scholarships to high school seniors as well as other charities.

The 22nd SandFest is scheduled for April 27-29, 2018.

Return to top

Click here for digital edition
2017-04-05 digital edition