Cannon Beach Sandcastle Fest Announces Plans for the Oregon Coast Icon
(Cannon Beach, Oregon) – On extremely rare occasions, a tsunami can be responsible for a good thing. This was the case with Cannon Beach's now-famed annual sandcastle festival, which started in 1964 because a tsunami had destroyed the town's bridge, leaving it isolated and causing residents to deal with boredom in innovative ways.
That was 51 years ago, and now the Cannon Beach Chamber has announced plans for the 51st annual Cannon Beach Sandcastle Contest, happening June 20 of this year.
It is apparently the oldest competition of its kind in the Pacific Northwest and the most popular event in this Oregon coast hotspot. Dozens of teams of professional sand sculpture artists, amateur groups and families will construct remarkable creations in the sand during the event, which brings in thousands to the tiny town. The Masters division teams compete for cash prizes and construct large, elaborate creations often utilizing construction forms, similar to those used for pouring concrete, to accomplish their monumental size.
In 2014, the Cannon Beach Sandcastle Contest was recognized as an Oregon Heritage Tradition by the Oregon Parks & Recreation Department, making it one of just 11 events statewide to achieve such a designation. An Oregon Heritage Tradition is an event with broad public appeal, with at least 50 years of continuous operation and that contributes to the identity of the state.
Although the sand sculpture contest on Saturday is the highlight of the weekend, visitors will find plenty of other activities to keep them busy. Weekend activities include a Sandcastle Bucket & Shovel Dinner, parade, concert, beach bonfire and a 5K fun run and walk. Judging of the sandcastles will be at 1 pm this year, making 11 am – 1:30 pm the best time for viewing the completed sculptures. The tide will determine how long the sculptures last.
The history behind the event is rather remarkable. An earthquake in Alaska in March of 1964 created a tsunami wave that washed ashore on the Northwest coast. Cannon Beach’s downtown suffered from flooding and the Ecola Creek Bridge was washed away. Local residents got together that summer to put on a community Sandcastle Contest to raise spirits.
Before the year was over, residents recognized the potential draw of such an event, and began promoting it to the public. It didn't take long for the event to grow exponentially, and by the 21st century the contest literally fills the roads and hotels of most of the entire north Oregon coast.
The 1965 Cannon Beach Sandcastle Contest could really be considered the first, making this one the official 50th – depending on how you think of it.
Make lodging reservations early for this popular weekend as hotels typically sell out all rooms in advance. You will likely find better opportunities in nearby Manzanita or just north in Seaside on that day. More about Seaside lodging, Cannon Beach lodging and Manzanita lodging.
Day-trippers should plan on arriving early. The Sandcastle Contest is the only day of the year when the beach is used for parking to accommodate the large crowds. For information on the Cannon Beach Sandcastle Contest or information on how to participate, contact the Cannon Beach Chamber of Commerce at (503) 436-2623. For lodging information, visit cannonbeach.org.
More on Cannon Beach below and at the Cannon Beach Virtual Tour, Map.
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