Sandcastle Contest: More Than Tiny Shovels Host Liane Hansen speaks with Sherrill Pallotto about the U.S. Open Sandcastle Competition in Imperial Beach, Calif. The 30th annual competition takes place Sunday and regularly draws hundreds of thousands of attendees to see the sand sculptures, not all of which are castles.
NPR logo

Sandcastle Contest: More Than Tiny Shovels

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Sandcastle Contest: More Than Tiny Shovels

Sandcastle Contest: More Than Tiny Shovels

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


Sherrill Pallotto oversees the competition's judges. She joins us from member station KPBS in San Diego. Welcome to the program.


HANSEN: Now, qualify it for us. Does each team's entry have to be, strictly speaking, a castle?

PALLOTTO: Well, no, they're not actually castles. There's all kind of different forms that take shapes on the beach. You can have some life forms, creatures of the sea, just a variety of different artistic creations.

HANSEN: Whose sculpture won last year? What did it look like?

PALLOTTO: The winning sculpture in the master's category, which we look at as a professionals, was Team Arcasand(ph). They're out of Orange County, California. And they actually did a tribute to Michael Jackson.

HANSEN: Do any individuals enter and have had some merit?

PALLOTTO: I do have a gentleman from Santa Barbara, California, Scott Dodge, who actually has been a winner year over year. And he creates the most amazing sand sculptures. And he's a one-man show, if you will.

HANSEN: What did he do last year?

PALLOTTO: He did a fallen soldier, and the details of it were just amazing.

HANSEN: Wow. You've been doing this, overseeing the judges, for 10 years. Do you have a favorite one that still sticks with you?

PALLOTTO: You know, there's been so many castles. We're talking about 40 teams over the last 10 years that I have been a part of the organization. I have to give a shout-out to Rando's Commandos(ph). They're actually in the best sculpture category. And rather than create their sculpture on top of the sand, they dig below down to the water table. So, they give a whole different perspective on the sand sculpture process.

HANSEN: So, they basically dig a hole and then sculpt it so it looks like something - you look into the hole and you see more than just a hole?

PALLOTTO: They had a train one year that went underground, sea creatures coming up out of the sand, just amazing.

HANSEN: Wow. So, what happens to all of these beautiful works of art after the competition is over?

PALLOTTO: Well, unfortunately, we have no control over Mother Nature. So, about 4:00 or 4:30, the water starts to come in and release all of our art back to the ocean.

HANSEN: Sherrill Pallotto is the team registration coordinator for the U.S. Open Sandcastle Competition, which ends today in Imperial Beach, California. Thank you.

PALLOTTO: Thank you for having me. You have a wonderful day.

HANSEN: You too.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.