South Padre Island is no stranger to sandcastle building, but the Holiday Sandcastle Village steps up the festivity. The village brims with holiday sand sculptures from talented artists from all over the world.
It started last year as a joint effort between city leaders and local sand artist Lucinda Wierenga, also known as Sandy Feet. South Padre Island is the self-proclaimed Sandcastle Capital of the Universe. The city thus felt it was time to add to the already long list of sand sculpture events.
Sandcastle Days is in its 33rd year and is one of the longest running such events in the world. There is also the Sandcastle Trail which features about 30 sculptures that are maintained as a semi-permanent exhibit. Additionally, they have formed a non-profit to bring sand sculpture to the masses. This organization offers free “SandCamp” sessions four days a week all summer long to help people learn how to have more fun on the beach forever.
Stepping into the Village
The Holiday Sandcastle Village opened on Nov. 25 and will remain open until Jan. 13. You can find it in a central location between Louie’s Backyard and Gravity Park. Ed Caum, the director of the South Padre Island Convention and Visitors Bureau, estimates that as of mid-December, more than 15,000 people had visited the village since it opened in November.
This year it features 12 holiday sand sculptures built by nine artists from Canada, Holland, Florida and Texas. They invite the sculptors who have come for the Sandcastle Days contest to stay an extra week or two to work on the village. “We have some of the best sand sculptors in the world. We are very fortunate they love working here,” said Wierenga. The sculptures include a huge life-size Santa, Santa’s Workshop, a throne for Santa surrounded by presents, a giant Christmas tree and so much more.
Taking a village to build a village
Wierenga began working with the city last year to organize this one-of-a-kind event. “My company worked in partnership with the town of SPI to design and build the village,” said Wierenga. With more than 30 years of sand sculpture experience, she was a natural go-to to create the Holiday Village. She has been competing at major events all around the world since 1987. She has also taught sandcastle lessons and team-building exercises on South Padre Island for more than 30 years.
Joaquin Cortez is one of the featured artists of the event. He is from north Texas and has competed in Sandcastle Days the past two years. Cortez also carved the Sand-ta for the Holiday Sandcastle Village in 2018. He continues his work this year by contributing this year’s Sand-ta as well as collaborating with Wierenga on a huge Santa chair.
Emerson Wierenga Schreiner is another of the featured artists. He is Wierenga’s nephew and has spent the last 10 summers with her learning the art of sandcastle building and how to be a sandcastle instructor. He also serves as her duo partner on the contest circuit. Last summer he branched out and opened a Sandy Feet franchise in Galveston. He is not only a sand sculptor but also a painter with work in several galleries. “I am just super proud of him,” said Wierenga.
The Holiday Sandcastle Village gives locals and tourists alike one more chance to enjoy the art of sand sculpture throughout the year.