Sand sculpting champs declared during seventh Crystal Classic

International sand sculpting champions were declared today during the seventh annual Siesta Key Crystal Classic International Sand Sculpting Festival, which is drawing thousands to Siesta Public Beach and raising awareness for endangered sea turtles. (See the completed sculptures Monday and Tuesday. Details at:
Awards were presented this afternoon, Nov. 13, to winning teams of two master sand sculptors who competed for a total prize pot of $15,000.
The Crystal Classic drew 12 teams from nations around the world, including Bulgaria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Ireland, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Portugal, and U.S. states including California, Florida, New York, Rhode Island and Texas.

Abram Waterman from Canada and Walter MacDonald (nicknamed Amazin’ Walter) from Texas won first prize ($5,000) for “Sneak Peek.” The sculpture is a large portrait of MacDonald’s face with two children peeking through his eyes, which provide windows onto a detailed sand castle in the back.

“It’s a look into the amazing brain of Amazin’ Walter,” Waterman said.

“You can look through there and see what I’m thinking,” MacDonald said. “I’ve participated in this event for all seven years, and the event is so good that winning isn’t the most important thing, but this is my first time winning first prize, so hallelujah!”

Other prizes and winners were:

Second place ($4,000): “In the Kingdom of Edgar Allan Poe” by Andrius Petkus of Lithuania and Dmitry Klimenko of Russia
Third place ($3,000): “Whatever Floats Your Boat” by Kirk Rademaker from California and Matt Long from New York
Sculptors’ choice: ($2,000): “Energy of the Universe” by Radovan Živný and and Jan Zelinka
People’s choice: ($1,000): The public can see the finished sculptures and vote through 5 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 15. Winners will be announced at: 

“The sand sculptors truly wowed us this year with their creativity and detailed craftsmanship, and the wonderful turnout has shown us that people love this event and love Siesta Beach,” said Maria Bankemper, Event Chair. “Siesta Beach was recently declared No. 1 beach in the U.S. by TripAdvisor, and this festival adds to the many qualities that make this beach such a jewel. We thank the sculptors, the sponsors and our event partners at Mote Marine Lab from the bottom of our hearts.”

The production of this year's festival is a partnership between the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce and Mote Marine Laboratory. Through this partnership, Mote aims to support the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce and generate awareness of Mote’s Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program, which coordinates conservation of endangered sea turtles along 35 miles of Sarasota County beaches, including Siesta Key. The public can donate anytime to support Mote’s Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program by visiting, contacting Kate Knepper (941-388-4441, ext. 393 / or through BidPal (visit or text "Mote" to 243725).
“Endangered and threatened sea turtles nested in record numbers this summer along our local stretch of beaches, including Siesta Key,” said Dr. Michael P. Crosby, President & CEO of Mote. “This is truly a time to celebrate — a perfect time for the fun, festivity and community engagement of the Siesta Key Crystal Classic. We thank our event partner, the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce, along with each and every person who came to view the sand sculptures. We hope that you stopped and talked with members of Mote’s Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program, and that you consider supporting our 35-year effort to document nesting sea turtles and keep these beautiful beaches turtle-friendly.”

Mote mascot Shelley the Sea Turtle celebrates at the Siesta Key Crystal Classic on Nov. 13, 2016.
See the sculptures: The Crystal Classic will continue with two more sculpture-viewing days Monday and Tuesday, Nov. 14 and 15. A Beach Access Mat is available for wheelchair accessibility and easier walking on the sand. For more information about Siesta Key Crystal Classic please contact Ann Frescura at the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce at 941-349-3800 or, or visit For video, please visit the Siesta Key Crystal Classic YouTube channel.

SCAT is offering scheduled bus service from Southgate & Sarasota Pavilions to Siesta Beach, Routes 10 & 11, throughout the event.
About the Siesta Key Crystal Classic International Sand Sculpting Festival
Founded in 2010, the Crystal Classic is a result of discussions between Master Sand Sculptor and Siesta Key resident Brian Wigelsworth and representatives of the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, Sarasota County Parks and Recreation, Mote Marine Laboratory and Visit Sarasota County.
About Siesta Beach
Siesta Beach was declared the No. 1 beach in the U.S. in the 2015 Travelers’ Choice Awards from TripAdvisor. It was also named America’s No. 1 beach in Dr. Beach’s 21st annual Top 10 Beach List in 2011. The list is produced by Dr. Beach, also known as Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, Director of Florida International University’s Laboratory for Coastal Research.
About Mote's Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program
For 35 years, Mote Marine Laboratory has been coordinating sea turtle conservation on 35 miles of Sarasota County shoreline. This mission includes monitoring local sea turtle nesting every day of the nesting season, May through October, to document long-term trends in populations of sea turtles — threatened and endangered species protected by state and federal laws.
Sponsors of the 2016 Siesta Key Crystal Classic
Platinum Sponsors are: Kona Brewing Co.; Herald-Tribune; ABC 7; and Benderson Development. Gold Sponsors are: Altez Vacations; Best Western Plus, Siesta Key; and Tropical Breeze. Silver Sponsors are: Smith Architects P.A.; Sights and Sounds AV Inc.; Daiquiri Deck Raw Bar; Captain Curt’s; Mattison’s; SRQ Media; Beach Bazaar; Sunset Automotive Group; Siesta Key Village Association; Siesta Key Association; Badger Bob’s Services; The Observer Group; and Siesta Beach Concessions. Sand Dollar Sponsors are: Morton's Siesta Market; Siesta Sand Newspaper; Serbin Printing; Siesta Sports Rentals; Sarasota Chamber of Commerce; Studio F; and U.S. Tent Rentals, Inc. Chamber Member Sponsors are: Cafe Gabbiano; Old Salty Dog; Must DO Magazine; Stonewood Grill;; Village Café; Hooters, Gulf Gate; Comfort Suites. Patron Sponsors are: Cavanaugh & Co. LLP; Dutch Valley Restaurant; Gidget's Coastal Provisions; Trident Communications; Damex Corporation; fresh. PR & Marketing; Foxy Lady; Paradise Communications; The Lobster Pot; and Cynthia & Greg Brock - Re/Max Tropical Sands.
*Note to beachgoers on Florida red tide algae

While enjoying our beautiful coastline this week, please be mindful of updates and health tips regarding the naturally occurring Florida red tide algae, Karenia brevis.
Florida red tide algae cells were detected above normal background concentrations recently along some parts of southwest Florida, including Sarasota County.

When elevated concentrations of K. brevis are present, people may experience respiratory irritation such as coughing, sneezing or a scratchy throat while at the shore or on the water. These symptoms are temporary and often considered an annoyance, but people with asthma, COPD or other chronic respiratory conditions should avoid areas with active red tide, since the toxins can trigger their symptoms.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) posts statewide reports on abundance of K. brevis red tide algae here:
Based on statewide results, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration provides forecasts of potential respiratory irritation:
Mote’s Beach Conditions Reporting System provides shoreline observations as often as twice daily:
Red tide background info from Mote and FWC, respectively (including FAQs): and
Red tide and human health – information and multi-lingual rack cards from Florida Department of Health: