The Pier 60 Sugar Sand Festival returns to the Bay area April 7-23, 2023, bringing 17 days of celebrating the art of sand sculpture and a wide variety of family-friendly activities. Since its launch back in 2013, the festival has grown to become the largest event of Clearwater Beach each year and draws over 200,000 visitors to the area during its multi-day run. This year’s event promises plenty of sand sculpting oohs and aahs as well as some fun new ways to get a closer look at this unique art.
Guests will get to witness the spectacular artistry as sand sculptors use approximately 1,000 tons of sand straight from Clearwater Beach’s pristine white beaches. These talented artists will present their art through The Sugar Sand Walk Exhibit, a 21,000-square-foot gallery housed right near the beach. Each year, the festival announces an exhibit theme. For 2023, that theme is “A Blast From the Past.”
Outside of the exhibit space, families will have a plethora of fun, free activities – everything from sculpting classes and speed sand demos to a kids’ play area and live entertainment. Admission to the sculpture exhibit is $14 per person (free for children ages 3 and younger). Discounted tickets will be available for military, first responders, teacher and healthcare workers with proper identification for $10 on Frontline Fridays. BayStar VIP Tickets are also available.
This annual sand sculpting celebration was the brainchild of festival founder Lisa Chandler (LEFT), who along with her husband Steve, had been active business owners in the area for over two decades before becoming involved as volunteers with the Sunsets at Pier 60 organization. The Festival estimates that it makes a $32.8 million economic impact on the community over its 17 days and continues its mission to raise funds for local educational programs and initiatives.
In addition to The Sugar Sand Walk Exhibit, attendees will get to watch eight sculptors from around the world creating their masterpieces live as they compete for the title of Winner of the Master Sand Sculpting Competition with a $7,000 cash prize for the declared winner. Guests who stop by these sculptors in action can vote for their favorite sculptures with their wallets – pennies, nickels, dimes, and dollars, accepted. The sculptor who raises the most money wins. Best of all, the Festival will donate all raised funds directly to Sandy Lane and Eisenhower Elementary Schools, two local Title I elementary schools.
The festival also offers attendees a chance to try their own hand at sand sculpting with free Sugar Sand Sculpting Classes to held beachside daily with carving materials supplied and instruction provided by one of the available master sand sculptors. Classes take place daily at 2:00 p.m. and Saturdays at both noon and 2:00 p.m. Also, guests can check out an Amateur Sculptor Competition and Doubles Competition along with Clearwater Gas Speed Sand Demonstrations, a free, live, interactive contest where the audience gives participating sculptors impromptu art ideas and watch to see each artist’s interpretation of it in just ten minutes time.
One of the most popular free attractions at the festival is The Giant Sandbox, where parents can rechange while the kids climb, dig and build upon mounds and mounds of sugar sand. Other daily fun includes amusement rides, a wildlife learning experience, cornhole tournament, and more. Wrapping up Saturday evenings, guests can catch a magnificent, fireworks show at 9:00 p.m. As always, the festival encourages attendees to support neighboring bars and restaurants throughout the day as they can travel back and forth to the festival with their daily admission. Cold beverages including beer and wine, along with snacks and sweets, will be available from vendors onsite at the festival.
Throughout the festival’s run, guests will meet up with various street performers such as strolling magicians, daring jugglers, even highly perched aerialist silk artists, and other colorful characters including award-winning pogo stick master Wacky Chad. Skilled artisans also will be on hand sharing their talents and selling their creations along Pier 60. Take a stroll and meet up with them – everyone from jewelry designers and glass artists to caricaturists, painters, and much more. Artisans will be on hand Sunday through Thursday 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. and Fridays and Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
This year’s festival includes a lineup of free music for attendees to sit back and relax or dance from their beach chairs. Music takes the stage during the day at the Hooters Hangout with performers playing on the beachside stage throughout the festival run. Click here to check out that lineup. And in the evenings, Frenchy’s Restaurants delivers a free beach concert series with an eclectic mix of entertainment including Black Honkeys (right) on Saturday, April 8 at 7:30 p.m.
For the latest news about this year’s Pier 60 Sugar Sand Festival check the event website by clicking here. Readers can also follow along with this year’s festivities at the event’s social media pages on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Content written by Chris Kuhn for Destination Tampa Bay. All photos are for editorial purposes only, all rights reserved.