The Siesta Key Crystal Classic
Updated: Jul 19
The Ultimate Sand Castle Competition
The Siesta Key Crystal Classic is an International Sand Sculpting Festival held annually in November. It is a perfect way to showcase the famous pristine, pure white sand of Siesta Key. The master sculptures have commented that the quartz-based snow white sand makes their sculptures appear as if they were “carved in marble”. The competition for this year is scheduled for November 10 – 13, 2023
“The master sculptures have commented that the quartz-based snow white sand makes their sculptures appear as if they were “carved in marble”.”
The festival is a 4-day event with the highlight being the master sculptors’ competition. The first time I attended this event was in 2019. Eight teams comprised of two sculptors and eight solo artists from around the world competed in the ninth annual festival. The sand sculptors hailed from South Korea, Canada, Italy, the Czech Republic, Singapore, United Kingdom, Lithuania, the Netherlands, and the United States. In addition to the Masters Competition, there is an amateur sand sculpting competition. Anyone can register for the amateur competition but the field is limited to 25 competitors.
A fun and fast-paced sculpting competition is the Quick Sand Contest in which 2 master sculptors race against time (10 minutes) to create a crowd pleasing masterpiece. The winner is determined by applause. This competition runs several times throughout the festival with the finals on Sunday at 4:30 pm. The festival offers sand sculpting demonstrations and lessons. There is live music each day with a stage set up under a tent. On Saturday night there is a band playing from 6:00 – 9:00 pm. Since I've been attending the event, the Saturday night headliner has been Fleetwood Max. The members of this tribute band look, act, and sound like their counterparts of the original band. They put on an awesome show! This year, 2023, Smudgekitten, will be the headliner on Saturday night. On Friday, Sunday, and Monday the festival closes at 5:00 pm. On Saturday night, the festival is open until 9:00 pm so you can view the sand sculptures under colored lights. If you attend the festival on Saturday, you get the double bonus of watching the sunset over Siesta Beach and seeing the sand sculptures illuminated with bright colored lights.
The festival includes a Vendor Village, Barefoot Beach Bar Party Tent, and food truck rally which are open to the public and no entry fee is required. The Vendor Village is set up along the outside perimeter of the Sand Village and it’s an arts festival featuring all types of artists and beach themed merchandise. There are 6 food trucks and water and beer stations. There is a Dining Tent next to the food trucks so you can sit at a table in the shade. Near the Entrance Tent, the Beach Bar serves frozen tropical drinks and other adult beverages.
If you can’t make it to the festival each day, you can view a slide show of the progression of the sculptures at the check-in kiosk.
A Panel of Judges selects the winners of the Masters Competition and the Awards Ceremony is held on Sunday at 3:00 pm. The winners of the Amateur Competition are announced on Saturday afternoon. The festival spectators are encouraged to vote for their favorite sculpture. Before leaving the competition, don’t forget to cast your vote. Let me forewarn you, it’s not an easy choice. I found all the sculptures to be spectacular. The People’s Choice Award is announced on the festival’s Facebook page on Tuesday.
The admission price includes all activities inside the Sand Village (festival fenced area) including sculpture viewing, the Quick Sand competition, lessons & demonstrations, and live music entertainment. You are allowed in and out privileges all day. I like to view the sculptures in the morning and then head to the beach for some fun in the sun. I walk around the festival several times throughout the day to watch the progress. The sculptors use all kinds of tools and techniques. It's incredibly fascinating to observe the artists work their magic in the sand. Tickets are available at the entry gate or you can buy a ticket in advance online. Buying your ticket online allows you to skip the long line to buy the ticket on the day of the event. The line is very long at the opening (10 am). Even though Siesta Beach has a large parking lot (over 900 spaces), parking is a major issue to this popular event that attracts over 50,000 spectators. You can purchase a VIP parking pass but these tend to sell out quickly and they cost $55/day. For more information about free parking and beach access points, visit my blog post: Siesta Beach: #1 Beach In The USA. To avoid parking issues altogether, one option is to take SCAT, the public bus to Siesta Beach. Use Route 11 to Siesta Beach. Another option if you live or are staying on Siesta Key is to take the Siesta Key Breeze Free Trolley Service. Consider taking Uber or Lyft.
I didn’t know what to expect when I attended this event for the first time but it completely exceeded my expectations. The sculptures are larger than life, incredibly intricate, and unique. The details are phenomenal. It’s amazing how these artists transform a mound of sand into a breathtakingly beautiful marble-like sculpture. You have to see it in person to fully appreciate the beauty and artistic skill.
Friday: 10 am – 5 pm
Saturday: 10 am – 9 pm
Sunday: 10 am – 5 pm
Monday: 10 am – 5 pm
Advance Purchase Tickets (Online):
Adult: $12 per day
Children (5-17 accompanied by a paying adult): $6 per day
Children under 5: free
Military and Seniors: $10 per day
4-Day Value Pass: $40 per adult and $20 for children
(ages 5 – 17 if accompanies by a paying adult)
Reserved Parking Passes:
Must buy in advance and online
One day: $55
For more information and online tickets, visit www.siestakeycrystalclassic.com.
You can subscribe to the Siesta Key Crystal Classic mailing list and follow them on Instagram @SiestaKeyCrystalClassic to stay informed about the upcoming event and up-to-date information.
For more information about Siesta Beach, click here.
Latest Post Update: July 19, 2023
Original Post Date: August 1, 2020