Photos from the Cannon Beach 55th Annual Sandcastle Contest

“It’s a wonderful, family, hometown tradition for Cannon Beach,” Event Director Debbie Nelson said. “Everyone seems to enjoy it.”

A tsunami is credited with being the genesis of the Cannon Beach Sandcastle Contest. 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. Recognizing the potential draw of such an event, the event was promoted to the public the next year in an effort to bring tourists back to town.

The event grew, began attracting tens of thousands of visitors and more than 50 years later, the Sandcastle Contest weekend is still one of the busiest weekends of the year for Cannon Beach.

In 2014, the Cannon Beach Sandcastle Contest was named an Oregon Heritage Tradition by the Oregon Parks & Recreation Department, making it one of just 22 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.

This year, around 60 teams will be competing in the contest. Participants will range from professional sand sculpture artists to amateur groups and families.

“We have families that have come year after year,” Nelson said. “And they grow up and now their grandkids are coming and competing.”

The Masters division teams compete for cash prizes. Though, Nelson says the best prize is the bragging-rights.

The Masters will construct large, elaborate creations often utilizing construction forms similar to those used for pouring concrete in order to accomplish their monumental size.

“Everything has to be natural: constructed with sand, seaweed, and shells,” Nelson said. “You can’t use things you wouldn’t expect to find on the beach. We don’t allow binders; we don’t want to affect the environment in any way. As soon as the tide comes in, the ocean washes the castles away.”

Weekend activities include Saturday night beach bonfire with live music and Sunday morning 5K fun run and walk.

Bill Steidel is this year’s featured artist on the Sand Castle poster. Steidel’s art was also used for the 50th Sand Castle Contest.

 “We’re really honored that he did that,” Henson said.  

Steidel has been an integral part of Cannon Beach since the 1970’s creating paintings and prints which are sold in his gallery on Hemlock Street near the center of town. His art is one of Cannon Beach’s most enduring artistic presences.

Steidel will be present to sign posters during gallery hours at Steidel’s Art (116 S Hemlock St) during the Sand Castle Contest.


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