By Jillian Fellows
The art of sand sculpting will be on display today as CASA of Grant County hosts its annual Sand Sculpture Artfest.
The fundraising event is not only CASA's largest event of the year, it is also the child advocacy group's only fundraiser of the year
"This is our seventh year doing it," said Leslie Hendricks, CASA executive director. "It was actually thought up by two children in the community. They came and presented it to the board of directors at CASA and it just kind of blossomed from there."
In fact, it was CASA board member Michael Belcher's children who thought up the sandy idea.
"It's grown in size as far as the number of people," Belcher said. "It's continued to grow in donations. Most importantly it's grown in awareness of CASA and what they do and the needs of children in Grant County."
Belcher added that "fundraising is important but I think awareness is more important."
Teams of sculptors will begin shaping their sand creation at 10 a.m. today at the Splash House. There was a $150 fee to register a team for the competition and reserve a space in the sandbox. Registration was completed in advance of the event and no walk-in teams are allowed. However, the public is invited to attend and vote on the sculptures.
"We do have space reserved for children to play in the sandbox," Hendricks said. "It's there all day long and that is free and open to the public."
Belcher will be among the many sculptors participating today, as he has done for the past several years.
"I love building. I love the fun of it. I enjoy the competition of it. I enjoy watching all the different sculptures go from flat sand to piles of sand to finished sculptures. It's a neat evolution throughout the day," he said. "It's something different. It's unique. I like the fact that my kids were involved in the original idea. It's neat for them, as they grow, to see the event continue to thrive over the years."
Four different prizes will be awarded at the event; the People's Choice Award, the Golden Pail Award, the Schramm Family Award and the Raisin Award.
The People's Choice Award will be determined by the number of tickets each sculpture accumulates from the attendees. The Raisin Award will be given to the team that raises the most money through donations at the event.
The goal this year is to raise $20,000 and Hendricks said, "we are very, very close to achieving that."
The event is put on with the help of the Marion Parks and Recreation Department and the Splash House facility.
"This is an awesome event for a very good cause," said Belinda Hussong, Parks Department Director. "The different ideas and things you can do with sand are really unique."
Hussong added that she enjoys "the cooperation and working together to plan the event that goes on within the different organizations."
Despite a rainy week preceding the event, Hendricks said she is optimistic the weather will clear for the sand sculpture contest.
"I'm very excited because our weather forecast is cooperating. It looks like we're going to get a nice day," she said. "It is such a unique event. It is always very humbling just to see the amount of people who come out and support us. We are very grateful for the support that we have. It's very nice to know the community believes in what we do."