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Building A Village in Sand

Building A Village in Sand

When we first moved to Capitola we knew not a single soul in the area. As a new mom with two young babes, it was very difficult to be so alone. We would have our friends visit on the weekends often.

In 2009, our friends Dave and Lori were visiting for the Begonia Festival when I noticed the sand sculpture contest. Even though none of us had done anything more than use our kids sand toys, we decided it would be a fun adventure to give it a whirl. We headed to the beach with our two families and my Aunt.

The Theme was Capitola takes Flight

We created the houses of the Three Little Pigs, one of straw, one of sticks and one of brick with the pigs faces in the window and the big bad wolf crouched outside.

We called it “The Flight of the Pigs”

Our houses were rudimentary but did look like houses. We were particularly proud of the fact that you could tell our wolf was a wolf.

It wasn’t pretty, but we found it to be incredibly fun and exciting. We had no illusions about winning, we had joined for fun but we found ourselves waiting at the announcements, silently wanting one of those trophies.

We did not win.

2010 comes along and Dave and Lori and my Aunt decide to all stay for the weekend and do the Sand Sculpture contest with us again.

The begonia festival theme was “Beach Party”

We decided to do Sponge Bob and Patrick – because people, we were getting a lot of Sponge Bob time in those days.

Again, a lot of fun and our efforts came out fairly rudimentary. BUT – people could tell who they were! Kids would walk by and yell, Sponge Bob and Patrick! We again, did not win a trophy but every time someone recognized what we had created out of sand, it felt like a win. We were hooked.

2011 rolls around. We have by now convinced our friends Dave and Lori to move to Santa Cruz and they have. We have met a couple other families and have become friends. We now have a group of four families plus my aunt and cousin.

The Theme “Let’s Dance”

We decide to do Michael Jackson who had recently passed – we create the silhouette of him doing one of his dance moves. We play Michael Jackson music during the entire creation.

We again, did not win but now we had that itch and really wanted to. We started paying attention to the ones who did win and found them not so much better constructed as better decorated and more visually appealing. They were often decorated in shells. So, obviously, I began collecting shells all year long.


We have been making friends and talking about our sand sculpture escapades. We have three new families who have joined us.

The Theme is My Favorite Year – A retrospective

We choose to do Scooby Doo – Scooby Doo also being a big presence in our lives during our own childhood and now our kids.

With the additional people, our skill levels increased significantly.

We created a Scooby Doo and a Mystery Machine and we had so much fun doing it. The Scooby Doo theme song was playing as the judges came to evaluate and our carefully collected shells outlining the Mystery Machine gleamed in the sunlight.

When it came time to announce the winners, we all huddled once again anxiously waiting to see if our name would be called. When they announced “And First place of Large Groups goes to – Team Scooby Dooby Doo!! People our reaction was off the charts – OH MY GOD!!! WE WON!! We WON!!! I grabbed that trophy, I posed, I smiled, I cheered and whooped. My friend in the crowd overhead a woman say, you’d think she just won an Emmy. Honestly, it felt like I had.

The few of us who were there waiting at the announcements grabbed the trophy and started running back to the large group humming the Rocky theme song as we went along.


All of the families are back plus another new one or two.

The Theme is “Capitola Magic”

We decide to create Mickey Mouse’s Fantasia. We create a HUGE Mickey Mouse head, two large gloved hands and a massive dancing broom. Once again the shells are gleaming, the Fantasia music is playing and we create something pretty cool.

Waiting for the announcements we feel incredible disappointment when we do not place in the Large Group… Until we hear our names announced as the Grand Prize Winners of the Sand Sculpture contest. Our first Grand Prize!

We re-enact our Rocky Theme Song run back to the group.


Our families continue to return and grow. These are the families we are sharing our lives with. Our kids play together, we do school and sporting events together, they have become the fabric of our lives. This sand sculpture contest becomes a visual representation of the life we are creating in Santa Cruz.

The theme is: Begonias on Broadway

We do Aladdin in honor of Robin Williams who had passed – we create the Genie, the lamp and the magic carpet. We have “You aint never had a friend like me” playing when the judges walk up.

We once again win Grand Prize. Cue Rocky Theme Song.

Trophies are beginning to circulate at the family houses now.


The theme is: Beach Blanket Bingo

We tried to keep it in the kid theme and tie it into the Beach Blanket so created a Kermit the Frog playing the guitar on a beach blanket and a Miss Piggy laid out in a bikini on a surfboard.

Miss Piggy came out just a little too risqué.

We did not win any trophies.


What a difficult year politically – divisive and disturbing. When the theme came in for Begonias Around the World – we decided to create DisneyLand’s iconic ‘It’s A Small World’ Ride façade with a large peace dove flying towards the earth and the earth was surrounded by little people holding hands. We were a group of mixed Trump and Hilary supporters and we came together and created something truly beautiful together.

We played It’s a Small World and We Are the World while the judges did their thing.

We won Grand Prize.


The last year of the Begonia Festival. The begonia farm had been sold and this was the very last Begonia Festival in Capitola History.

The Theme: Begonias take a bow

The Begonia Festival ran from 1952 to 2017. My Dad was born in 1952 and he died a few short months before this festival in 2017. The Begonia Festival lasted as long as my Dad’s life. My Dad had been affectionately called Peter Pan so I decided to do the theme Peter Pan ~ Begonias off to Neverland.

We created Peter Pan and Tinkerbell over the façade of Capitola Village, flying away with the Begonias.

We had all of our families once again, come together and create something magical.

We again won Grand Prize.

Each year we created something that lasted for a short time on the physical plane but will live forever in our memories. Individually we could create, but never able to build an experience or result like the ones we accomplished - by coming together we found we could build something truly special.

And we did.

Yes, we built sand sculptures together, but what we were really doing is: we were building our village. That is the beauty I see in those pictures, not what we created from sand but what we created IN the sand.

A Capitola Family.

All views are my own and are not reflective of any organization I am a part of

All views are my own and are not reflective of any organization I am a part of

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