Christy Atkinson climbed up her 6-foot pile of sand and started shoving some off the top with her feet. She was preparing to start sculpting the soft, tan sand into a Dia de los Muertos life-sized sculpture. “I love the day of the dead, it’s one of my favorite holidays,” Atkinson said. “So I’m doing a tribute piece for that.” Just as the old adage goes – a master doesn’t reveal her tricks. She wouldn’t say what she is planning to make. She wouldn’t even hint at it.
Is she creating an altar? A skeleton’s head? Or sand candle? “You’ll just have to come and experience it,” Atkinson said. “I tell you what it is so you get a mental image.”
Atkinson, 51, is one of 12 master sculptors who are making the life-sized sandcastles and artwork on the beach over the next few days at Clayton’s Beach Bar and Grill. It’s the annual and popular Sandcastle Days competition. “You get a big mountain of sand to work with so you have to do what you can with what you got,” Atkinson said. “If you run out, there is more under your feet to work with.”
The artists participating are some of the best from around the world. They have come from England, Bulgaria, Holland, Canada and the United States. Atkinson, from South Padre Island, is one of the locals in the competition. “We do our artwork on the beach, so people can come and enjoy it,” Atkinson said. “It’s something that a lot of families do year after year, they keep coming back.”
The weekend event is packed with entertainment and encourages people to participate in making a sandcastle or sculpture with a group or family. Yesterday, Atkinson and the master artists worked all morning making a sculpture together in front of Clayton’s commemorating the sponsors who help fund the event to bring the artists to the Island to participate. “They (sponsors) feed us and the take us in and they take good care of us,” Atkinson said. “To honor our sponsors and to thank them, we built a wonderful sculpture with all their names and logos.”
The sculpture is a steam punk Victorian theme symbolizing the sponsors as the gears of a machine helping the event along. Sandcastle Days was started 29 years ago by Lucinda “Sandy Feet” Wierenga and the Amazin’ Walter McDonald. The two have participated each year and are also working on their masterpieces made of sand over the next few days.
“I have long believed that our naturally-wonderful sand castling material can really help set us apart from other beach destinations, which is why I have worked so hard to keep Sandcastle Days going,” Sandy Feet said yesterday while carving.

If You Go
Open 9 a.m. – Close Official start of the masters of sand Competition Live bands
Open 9 a.m. – Close Amateur competition 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. Sandcastle Days Mercado Live bands
Open 9 a.m. – Close Masters of Sand Sculpting competition final day. Children’s waterslides, bouncer and bull riding Amateur registration, 9 a.m. Amateur competition, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. (Kids, family, group or singles welcome) Judging for amateur and masters divisions Awards ceremony for amateur and masters divisions Live bands

By RAUL GARCIA Staff Writer