Stay Eat Events Weather Beaches

N. Oregon Coast History: Tsunami Tragedy Started Cannon Beach's Sandcastle Festival

Published 05/04/2018 at 4:55 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection Staff

N. Oregon Coast History: Tsunami Tragedy Started Cannon Beach's Sandcastle Festival

(Cannon Beach, Oregon) – This year, on June 9, the 2018 Cannon Beach Sandcastle Contest will celebrate 54 years of crowd-pleasing and wowing. The small town tradition has become big time industry over those decades, but the strange truth of it is that the Oregon coast’s most high profile festival owes its existence to something rather tragic.

It was a tsunami that triggered the beginnings of the festival of sand sculpturing.

It’s also apparently switched official names over the years. Recent references and publicity have it labeled Cannon Beach Sandcastle Contest, but earlier references show it as Cannon Beach Sandcastle Day Festival.

The Sandcastle Day Festival began in 1964, not long after a tsunami washed out the bridge between the town and Highway 101. An earthquake in Alaska caused that destructive wave, which wrecked parts of Seaside, other parts of the Oregon coast, and killed four children down in the Newport area.

The lack of a bridge left Cannon Beach locals a little stir crazy for awhile, but even once it was rebuilt, residents found the tourists weren’t coming back. By early summer of 1964, Cannon Beach held the first Sandcastle Day Festival to help get them to return to town.

The first one was a low-key event featuring mostly local sand sculptors, put together by Margaret Atherton, daughter Billie Grant and Marian Crowell. It was designed specifically for kids and families, and one of several efforts to draw tourists back to town.

Latest Coastal Lodging News Alerts
In Seaside:
Includes exclusive listings; heatwave availability
In Cannon Beach:
Who's got rooms open for the heatwave this weekend
In Manzanita, Wheeler, Rockaway Beach:
Room openings this weekend
In Pacific City, Oceanside:
Who has rooms for this weekend hot weather inland
In Lincoln City:
Openings for this weekend to get away from the heat
In Depoe Bay, Gleneden Beach:
Where rooms are to be found this heavy traffic weekend
In Newport:
Room openings, get away from the heatwave
In Waldport
New amenities offered, find openings for the week
In Yachats, Florence
Availability for this weekend; lodgings not listed anywhere else

The second, in 1965, was more focused and a bit more publicized. A local newspaper article at the time touts the event happening on July 29. “Judges will be Gerald Gower, Cannon Beach mayor; Francis of the Cannon Beach Commercial Club; Frank Lackaff, local artist, and Mrs. Paul Dueber,” the article says.

The prize that year was $10. Gower Street was clearly named after the then-mayor: it’s the road that leads to the main access to Haystack Rock in midtown.

Summer fun on the Oregon coast would never be quite the same.

After that, the Sandcastle Day Festival was usually planned around days with the lowest tides, which would happen in May, June or July. By the ‘80s it had grown to national and international fame, even featured on Good Morning America. At one point, representatives from Cannon Beach were asked to help set up similar contests in San Francisco and North Carolina, and in 1984 the city of South Brighton in Australia asked for their assistance as well, according to documents from the Cannon Beach History Center & Museum.

Since then, it has grown to enormous proportions and become one of the pivotal events of summer on the Oregon coast. It still is based on lowest tides, scheduled around that occurrence in May, June or July – although it has generally happened in June in recent years.

In 2014, on its 50th anniversary, the Cannon Beach Chamber put together a commemorative book called "50 Years of Sandcastles in the Making," showing historical photographs and all the posters of previous years’ festivals. These are still for sale: call the chamber at 503-436-2623.

Also that 50th year, Oregon Parks & Recreation Department recognized the festival as an Oregon Heritage Tradition, only one of 11 events around the state get snag that honor. See cannonbeach.org for full festival info. Cannon Beach Hotels / Lodging for this event - Where to eat - Map and Virtual Tour

Oregon Coast Lodging







More About Oregon Coast hotels, lodging.....

More About Oregon Coast Restaurants, Dining.....

 

Oregon Coast event or adventure you can't miss

 



Coastal Spotlight


LATEST Related Oregon Coast Articles

Sandcastle Contest, Birdwatch Programs Bring Sparkle to Central Oregon Coast'...
Brings back its Sandcastle Contest and provides a full roster of free birdwatching clinics
N. Oregon Coast's Famed Cannon Beach Sandcastle Fest Returns June 9
The fun has been extended to other days beyond the actual sandcastle building, June 8 to 10. Cannon Beach events
N. Oregon Coast History: Tsunami Tragedy Started Cannon Beach's Sandcastle Fe...
It began in 1964, not long after a tsunami washed out the bridge
Cannon Beach Sandcastle Contest Lights Up Oregon Coast All Weekend
Cannon Beach Sandcastle Contest returns on Saturday, June 17. Cannon Beach events
June Highlights of Oregon Coast: Music, Kites, Sandcastles
Astoria events, Cannon Beach events, Manzanita events, Tillamook events, Pacific City events, Lincoln City events, Newport events, Yachats events
Taft's Sand Castle Contest Livens up Central Oregon Coast in August
The 13th is the day that boasts the Taft Beach Sandcastle Contest. Lincoln City events
Lineup Set for N. Oregon Coast's Cannon Beach Sandcastle Fest
The famed Sandcastle Contest wil be held on Saturday, June 11. Cannon Beach events
Central Oregon Coast Town Gets Whimsical with Sandcastle Fest
Every Oregon coast town needs its sandcastle festival, and August 8 will do just that for Lincoln City events

Back to Oregon Coast

Contact Advertise on BeachConnection.net
All Content, unless otherwise attributed, copyright BeachConnection.net Unauthorized use or publication is not permitted

Oregon Coast Lodging
Rentals
Specials

Dining

Events Calendar

Oregon Coast Weather

Travel News

Search for Oregon Coast Subjects, Articles

Virtual Tours, Maps
Deep Details