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Amazing sand art by Master Sculptor John Gowdy. The retired Atlantic City, New Jersey, fire captain is making his first appearance here since 2015. Courtesy photo
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International sand sculpting competition set for Labor Day weekend

Don’t miss San Diego’s largest Sand Sculpting Competition and Dimensional Art exposition Saturday Aug. 31 through Monday Sept. 2 on the Broadway Pier, shaded under the 30-foot-high ceiling of the beautiful Port Pavilion Building located at 1000 North Harbor Drive in San Diego.

According to US Sand Sculpting Competition and Dimensional Art Exposition (USSSC) organizer, Gordon Summer, “Please don’t refer to 20 sculptures on display at USSSC as sandcastles. That’s what kids make. What are seen here are sand sculptures. Huge difference.”

Event producers invite the best sculptors from around the world to compete against the best in the United States. World Master Sand Sculptors come all the way from the Netherlands, Italy and Canada, as well as exotic places like Latvia and Russia to challenge U.S. artists.

Internationally participating artists must be invited by the producers and have won at least one other major competition in the world. Many of the invited sculptors have won many.

“The first important West Coast sandcastle event was founded by Bud Harbin in Imperial Beach in 1980,” Summer said. “The ‘U.S. Open Sandcastle Competition’ ran until 2011. It had become the largest competition of its kind in the country.” 

Competition organizers will be building a beach high above the water, bringing 300 tons of sand to the Broadway Pier, with the Big Bay on the West and downtown’s castles in the sky on the East. The sculptures weigh over 10 tons of pure sand each.

“USSSC is on Broadway pier in downtown, not on the beach!” explained Summer. “We bring in sand from a quarry. Much better to sculpt with. Beach sand is lousy — washed by waves — particles are round and don’t stick together well. Major events worldwide are generally not on beaches.”

Throughout the weekend there will be live entertainment (tribute bands, singers and more), a sand box and rides for kids, a dozen gourmet food trucks, a fantastic view of the bay and all the great stuff that you always find on the Embarcadero, like Seaport Village and the Headquarters, the U.S.S. Midway Museum, the Maritime Museum and much more for a great weekend of family fun.

According to Summer, “the best way to travel to the USSSC and the Broadway Pier site is trolley, bus or Coaster. All debark just two blocks from the event. Also, Coronado Ferry debarks next door, and Uber, Lyft, and F.R.E.D. (Free Ride Everywhere Downtown) bring guests right to our front door. The city has accommodated with many more parking options this year as well.” 

Event hours are Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Monday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tickets may be purchased online and at the gate; Adults $15, seniors $13, and kids $10. VIP tickets are $40, which gets admission for all three days, all weekend long (worth up to $45); quick admittance each day (no waiting on the Purchase Tickets line), access to a special shaded section with a great view of the bay, and two free drinks at the bar (worth up to $16). To purchase tickets or for more information go to the USSSC website at

Top: Amazing sand art by Master Sculptor John Gowdy. The retired Atlantic City, New Jersey, fire captain is making his first appearance here since 2015. Courtesy photo

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