GALVESTON — Coliseums, cartoon characters, cruise ships, towering castles and at least two very uncomfortable-looking toilets rose from the East Beach sand Saturday.
The 27th annual AIA-Houston Sandcastle Competition saw 64 teams of architects, engineers and students storm the beach with shovels, rakes, brushes, buckets and molds for the often fantastical creations.
Huge crowds gathered throughout the day to watch as massive mounds of sand were transformed into sculptures that ranged from the complex and impressive — the Pipe Dream and its series of interlocking tubes and pipes — to the silly — two Mount Duckmore castles featured the faces of cast members from television’s “Duck Dynasty” chiseled into a mountainside, a la Mount Rushmore.
“All this beauty comes from pushing sand,” said Steve Stelzer, director of the city of Houston’s Green Building Resource Center.
Architectural projects built out of sand tend to be environmentally friendly, but this year’s competition was especially green.
Almost everything used in the castles’ construction, from the molds to the enormous pieces of cardboard used to frame and collect sand, was recyclable, Stelzer said.
The same creative energy and preparation these architects and designers put into large-scale construction projects were on full display Saturday. Several teams showed off miniature models used to guide their sand sculpture construction, and more than one team rigged a pump system to move water from the ocean to the building sites.
Rudy Del Bosque, chairman of the competition, said teamwork is key for construction projects, whether it’s a 2 million-square-foot stadium or a 6-foot-tall sandcastle.
“We work together out in the real world, so the teamwork comes in handy here,” he said.
Every team was entered in the competitive overall categories, and most entered theme-based categories, which included “most hilarious,” “most complex” and an entertainment category for castles based on pop culture.
Teams were encouraged to charm the judges and don costumes in an effort to appeal to visitors for a vote in the “public favorite” category. There were also competition categories for best costume and best team signage.
A group gathered in front of the “Poop Deck” cruise ship sculpture took turns throwing rolls of toilet papers into a makeshift toilet, and two costumed tree people in front of the “Lizard of Oz” kingdom danced to a drum beat being pounded out on overturned barrels.
A few hours before the judges were set to come by and see the completed sandcastles, a lone Popeye the Sailor stood in front of a half-finished sculpture in his likeness.
“Olive Oil left me,” Manuel Hernandez said in between fake puffs of Popeye’s pipe. “I hope she’s coming back.”
By the time the judges were taking their final stroll past the sculptures, Hernandez was hoisting Olive Oil into the air, while behind him a massive sandcastle Popeye glared and hefted a can of spinach.
Contact reporter Alex Macon at 409-683-5244 or email@example.com.