PARKSVILLE — Stunning works of art are being bashed to the ground by heavy machinery, a sure sign the Parksville Beach Festival has wrapped for another year.
BeachFest 2018, featuring the Sand Sculpting Competition and Exhibition, saw nearly 126,000 visitors come through the gates over the course of the five-week event which concluded on Aug. 19.
It’s the fourth straight year the event’s attendance topped 100,000, and while this year’s total is down three per cent compared to 2017, BeachFest Society president Cheryl Dill called it another fantastic year.
“Overall, a very strong number when we look at the trend over the last 18 years of the event. It’s only been the last three years we’ve been significantly over the 100,000 visitor mark.”
Dill said several factors, including strong local support, the region’s draw to tourists and favourable weather, all factor into the event’s consistent and prolonged success.
“It’s a unique event to the island and really unique in Canada,” she said.
This year’s theme — Wild Things from here to the Galapagos — allowed artists to convey a message which drew “awe and respect” from visitors, Dill said.
“One common theme was about sustainability to the environment and a lot of people certainly respect that and had their values aligned with the messages they recognized in the sculptures.”
Looking ahead to 2019, Dill said the society applied for grant funding to make the event more accessible.
“To help create a more even surface on top of the sand to increase accessibility for those using mobility aids and open up the event to those who are not currently able to come in.”
This year’s people’s choice award winners, based on votes from spectators during the event, were Choose Your Side in the doubles category and And What Did the Fish Eat? in the solo division. Peter Vogelaar of Winlaw, B.C. previously won the solo division award from the judges for his piece Hendrix Live, Wild Thing. Choose Your Side was also the doubles category winner from the judges and the competitors choice winner.
Admission to the event is by donation and Dill said final dollar figures aren’t in just yet. She anticipated the donation, 25 per cent of gate proceeds, to local projects and non-profits would be on par with previous years. Last year saw a record donation of over $62,000.