Arts & Culture

See the spectacular Sand in the City

As anyone who’s built a sand castle knows, it’s not that easy to get them to stand up. If the sand is too dry, they crumble. If the sand is too wet, they slump.

But the sand sculptures featured at the Hands On Children’s Museum’s annual Sand in the City, happening Friday through Sunday, seem to stay standing just fine. And they’re a lot bigger than anything that would have fit in a child’s sandbox.

How’d they do that?

Well, for one thing, architects design the local teams’ sculptures with advice from master sand sculptors. (The sculptors also create a sculpture of their own.)

But another secret to success is the sand.

“The master sculptors who compete all around the country tell us that this is the best sand they’ve worked with,” said museum director Patty Belmonte. “They try to steal the sand.”

“It holds together really well, and so you can do fine detail,” added Hannah Steinweg, Sand in City manager. “It’s claylike, so you can sculpt it more easily.”

The sand – all 270 tons of it – is stored from year to year at a sand and gravel place. It’s cleaned, filtered and then hauled out for the use of the sculptors. Thirteen local teams will build sculptures Friday, and the master builders will create theirs Saturday.

Among the sculptures the sand will become are pieces inspired by the board game Operation, by Disney films and the “Peanuts” comic strip and even a “kangaroo court.”

“There’s an alien picnic,” said Sand in the City coordinator Caitlin Bjornstad. “And there are some surprises. There’s a huge variety.”

Of course, Sand in the City – a fundraiser for the museum’s free and reduced-price admission program – includes a lot more than just the sculptures during this, its ninth year.

There’s sand for kids to play in, plus games, a touch tank, a climbing wall, miniature donkeys and horses, a toteload of make-and-take crafts and even the opportunity to have a cast put on.

This year, some activities – including face painting and crafts – will be happening Friday, when the teams are building their sculptures, as well as on the weekend.

“We added activities on Friday because we had so many requests from families who are from outside of the area and drove to the community specifically for the event,” Belmonte said. “They loved watching the sand sculpting but they wanted to have activities on Friday also.”