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Perishable Palaces

Shawn Owings built a six-pack.

The vision might have come through a 12-pack.

“I had all these 30 boxes around the house this morning, and I woke up, and I was like, you know what, what are you going to do?” Owings said, hanging out near Hanalei Pier, talking about his sandcastle he built that depicted a sixer of Coors Light beer, placed atop a grave, as an ode to a Billy Currington country song, “People Are Crazy.”

It was a sandcastle, for sure, but not the kind of castle one might imagine when thinking of sand, water and buckets.

“I thought it was fun,” he said,” sitting under a tent, listening to Currington’s song on repeat. “Who else has a theme song?”

There were about 100 entries, with amateur and would-be artists of all ages competing for prizes, but more, really, it was competing for bragging rights on a sunny, blue-skied North Shore day.

Thousands of people visited Hanalei Bay Saturday for the sixth annual Hawaii Sand Castle Festival and Art Contest that brings out beginners, intermediates and quasi-masters to the sculpting world. The free event is a way to bring people together for fun and some friendly competition, too.

Some people came prepared, with well thought out plans. Others winged it.

Those turning sand into masterpieces brought buckets, molds and an arsenal of tools like small shovels, knives, chisels and metal spatulas. It required patience and an attention to detail, which is where the pointed and sharp-edged instruments came into play. Other relied on their hands.

Some took hours to complete as they mixed sand and water. Others, perhaps 40 minutes or so.

“We didn’t know if it was going to be an elephant or a turtle,” said Eric Anderson, who built a large turtle with his family out of sand and water, his wife choosing the latter over the former. “You know what they say, happy wife, happy life.”

The competition started in the late morning and wrapped up in the afternoon. Some of the displays were what one would expect, like castles. Some had messages.

Like Angela Villa’s, who built a model of the Thirty Meter Telescope, atop a sand mountain,

“We can’t be there to protest,” Villa said. “We make a protest this way.”

There were lighter ones, too. Fish, canoes, and castles with moats.

“I don’t know, I don’t think I could ever do this, I tried a few times,” said spectator Timothy Scranton, visiting from California, about building monstrous castles. “I’ve tried to build them on the beach and all but it always goes to water. But these look good.”

Jeff Peterson, one of the organizers, said the event has gotten bigger and better each year, with the creativity of the sand castles growing, too.

“The more the better,” he said.


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