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Sand Sculpting Competition: Hampton Beach, NH

The heat wave that had been steaming up New England finally broke on Friday with some impressive thunderstorms across the area. When it cleared, we took it as a sign to go for a drive. A search for goings on within the 1-hour driving radius pointed us to the the 12th Annual  Master Sand Sculpting Competition at Hampton Beach in New Hampshire. When we saw that, we knew we had found our RainyDayDestination for the weekend.

The Hampton Beach exit was just at the border between MA and NH and it took us exactly an hour to get there on Rt 95. The vibe at Hampton Beach is 1950s Summer resort town complete with old-time arcades, fried-clam shacks, and a boardwalk which went for miles. A perfect Summer destination for singles and families alike. Judging by how well things are set up for visitors (traffic patterns, parking facilities, etc.) the town folks know it and embrace it. It’s a fun, sunny, relaxed, and affordable destination.

The whole sand sculpting thing got started in 2000 after a local artist and master sand sculptor Gregory Grady was commissioned by the U.S. Mint to create a larger than life replica of the back of the New Hampshire quarter out of sand for the Hampton Beach Children’s Festival. Twelve years later, the event is now an established part of Summer at Hampton Beach.

The event is the largest Masters-level competition in the Northeast United States. Participants are all professionals, participation is by invitation only, and 250 tons of sand are imported for the event. This year, ten world class masters vied for $15,000 in purse and entry awards. Beach-goers on Saturday had a chance to see the sculptors at workclose up. At times, the artists looked more like archeologists uncovering an ancient ruin than sculptors creating works of art.

The competition ended on Saturday (won by Carl Jara of Cleveland, entry: Continuum), but the sand sculptures will be on display until nature decides to reclaim the sand. We did not have time to stay and see, but we heard that the works are illuminated at night for viewing.

There is a lot more to Hampton Beach. Now that we have had a taste of it, we will plan a much longer visit to check out some of the other attractions. If you are in Boston and are looking for something to do on the next fine Summer day, check out what’s happening at Hampton Beach. We had a great time. Pretty sure you will too.

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