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Cannon Beach Sandcastle Contest Lights Up Oregon Coast All Weekend

Published 06/11/2017 at 5:24 PM PDT - Updated 06/11/2017 at 6:04 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Cannon Beach Sandcastle Contest Lights Up Oregon Coast All Weekend

(Cannon Beach, Oregon) – What started with a scary natural disaster on the Oregon coast has morphed its way into one of the biggest and most fun-filled festivals of the entire Pacific Northwest.

This year, the Cannon Beach Sandcastle Contest returns on Saturday, June 17, with thousands of people and some exceptionally creative constructs.

In March of 1964, an earthquake in Alaska caused a sizable tsunami on the Oregon coast (actually killing four at Newport). It made a wreck of parts of Seaside, and it washed out the only bridge in Cannon Beach, leaving residents with no way in or out.

Three months later, it still wasn't fixed and local residents were getting stir crazy. So, to cheer themselves up, they held a sandcastle contest. The following year, they held it again, realizing this could be a major attraction. That gamble was proven right and now the festival is one of the biggest draws in the state.

Jim Paino, executive assistant with the Cannon Beach Chamber, said the Cannon Beach Sandcastle Contest normally gets about ten thousand to fifteen thousand people each year, all crammed into that tiny town somehow.

This year, however, Paino believes that number could be lower.

“We're expecting a lower number this time because there's a lot of other things going on,” Paino said. “Things like the car show in Seaside or the Rose Festival going on in Portland.”

The event has changed and shifted over the decades. In the last ten years, Disney had a presence for awhile. Other aspects have come and gone as well.

Paino said the contest is in its 53rd year, and there's a few new things again. That includes it going a full three days now.

“We've added the Fun Run on Sunday and the parade on Friday, making it a full weekend of events,” Paino said. “And on Saturday, we have the beach bonfire with live music by a local group called Rose & Thistle.”

He described the group as a duo who perform what could be called “beachy folk.”

Competitors come from all over the country with all levels of ability: professional sand sculpture artists, amateur groups and families will all construct remarkable creations in the sand during this famed festival. These get washed away by the tide later in the day, with only photographs as proof of their existence.

At the masters division level, things are a bit more serious. These teams compete for cash prizes and build large, elaborate designs often utilizing construction forms similar to those used for pouring concrete in order to accomplish their monumental size.

On Friday, participants pick up their packets and their gear, starting at 10 a.m. At 5:30 p.m., there's a little parade through the north Oregon coast town. At 7:30 p.m., the Coaster Theater presents its rendition of Steel Magnolias.

On Saturday morning at 8 a.m., you can treat yourself to breakfast at the American Legion Pancake Feed (1216 S. Hemlock Street).

Above: the washed out bridge in Cannon Beach in 1964 that started it all (photo courtesy Cannon Beach History Museum).

At 10 a.m., the contest begins and the competitors go to work.

Judging begins at noon, with the Sand Fleas division looked at first – meaning kids. At 1 p.m. it's judging for the junior and teen division, 2 p.m. is the small groups, 3 p.m. looks at the large groups, and the master's division is judged at 3:30 p.m.

All cars should be off the beach by 4 p.m.

Live music kicks in at 7 p.m. on the beach. At 8 p.m., the beach bonfire starts with s'mores. Bring your own chair.

There's more on Sunday, with the Singing Sands 5K Fun Run and Walk. Registration is at 8 a.m. at 2nd St. and is $36 per person. The race starts at 9 a.m.

In 2014, the Cannon Beach Sandcastle Contest was recognized as an Oregon Heritage Tradition by the Oregon Parks & Recreation Department, making it one of just 11 events statewide to achieve such a designation. An Oregon Heritage Tradition is an event with broad public appeal, with at least 50 years of continuous operation and one which contributes to the identity of the state.

For information on the Cannon Beach Sandcastle Contest or information on how to participate, contact the Cannon Beach Chamber of Commerce at (503) 436-2623. Find Cannon Beach lodging here - and updates on openings for the festival. More about Cannon Beach below and at the Cannon Beach Virtual Tour, Map.

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