SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — Heavy clouds loomed over the Laguna Madre area Friday morning pounding some cities with rain while creating scattered power outages.

But miraculously, the storm never reached the Island during one of its most visual outdoor events of the year.

A dozen master sand sculptors from around the country and world have been competing in the Island’s 32nd Annual Sandcastle Days contest held at Clayton’s Beach Bar and Grill this week.

From dragons to sea turtles and even a haunted house, each artist has been preparing, designing, carving and perfecting their sand sculptures since Wednesday.

“These sandcastles are created by very talented people and we just love this event,” Clayton’s Beach Bar and Grill owner Clayton Brashear said. “There’s so much exciting family-friendly fun for everybody.”

Attendees will be able to take free sandcastle lessons today at 8 a.m. and tomorrow at 10 a.m. Additionally, visitors will be able to compete for prizes such as gift certificates in the event’s amateur sand sculpture contest that will be held today from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

The founders

Sandcastle Days was created by local sand sculptors Walter “Amazin’ Walter” McDonald and Lucinda “Sandy Feet” Wierenga to educate people about the importance of protecting coastal shores and to showcase the Island’s ability to create such large and intricate sandcastles.

“We competed in different contests around the country and world,” Wierenga said. “So, we thought South Padre Island should also have them because it’s a beautiful location and there’s such great sand.”

Florida sand sculptor Andy Daily’s contest entry in progress yesterday at the 32nd annual 5-day Sandcastle Days event on South Padre Island.

Wierenga said the competition has two more competitors this year and hopes Sandcastle Days continues growing.

“These people are my friends, but they’re also some of the best sand sculptors in the world,” Wierenga said. “So, it’s fun to be able to bring them here and put on a show that people come from miles around to see.”

Like father, like daughter

Taking after her father, Amazin’ Walter, Christy McDonald Atkinson is one of the 12 artists competing in the Sandcastle Days competition this year.

Christy and Amazin’ Walter decided to compete solo this year, but their choice of design showcased their similar style of artwork.

At one corner of the competition, Amazin’ Walter was meticulously creating arcs for his castle.

While at the other corner, Christy was chiseling scales on her large dragon she named Saphria.

“I love doing solo work, but I also really love working with my dad during competitions,” she said. “We always have so much fun together.”

Together, the duo has competed in several master level contests around the United States and Canada.

Amazin’ Walter McDonald, one of the Sandcastle Days founders, puts his skills to work as he creates his entry in the 32nd Annual Sandcastle Days event on South Padre Island yesterday.

“When I moved here around 2001, he started doing a few pieces and I had already started dabbling,” Christy recalled. “He took me to the world championship as his partner and that was my first master’s competition.”

After having moved away from the Island, Christy says she is excited to be participating this year.

“I’ve been competing in this on-and-off since the 90s and think it’s such an incredible event,” she said. “There’s a lot of work behind the scenes so I would like to give it two giant thumbs up and thank everyone involved.”

Alana Hernandez