'Room With a View'
The Embler brothers did it again.
Mitch, Marc and Mical, along with Mitch's wife, Kim, repeated as winners of Best of Show in Saturday's Piccolo Spoleto Sand Sculpting Competition on the Isle of Palms with a 5-foot-tall sculpture called "Room With a View," featuring an outhouse on top of an elaborately-constructed castle.
But it wasn't for lack of competition — a record-breaking 63 teams entered this year's competition. Among them were 19 teams in the adult division, featuring nearly a dozen regulars who go to great lengths to vie for an award.
While the Embler's father taught them how to make "sand-stacked towers" as children, it is Mitch who has taken the brothers' sculpting skills to the proverbial next level in the past three years, namely by sand carving. Via the Web, Mitch has learned a few tricks in carving from South Padre Island, Texas, master sculptors "Amazin' Walter" and Lucinda Wierenga, aka "Sandy Feet."
The Piccolo Spoleto event, funded with accommodation's tax revenue from the Isle of Palms and supported by island merchants with a bounty of gift certificates, lures quite a crowd to the beach. Many walk past the amateur sculptors during the building phase speculating what the sculptures are. Hundreds take photographs and speculate on who will win.
But it's hard to judge who has more fun, the spectators or the participants.
The Floyd family of Mount Pleasant actually played golf on their sculpture — "Par for the Course" — after finishing their putting green, which was dyed green with food coloring.
Melanie Floyd said they considered not participating in this year's contest, but once son Brooks came up with the idea of a putting green, she and husband Al were in. Her other son, Trey, who in recent years has competed in the children's division, and friend Austin Nuttall built "Miracle on the Hudson" nearby in a sculpture inspired by the US Airways plane that landed on Hudson River earlier this year.
Chris Tindal, one of the coordinators of the event, heralded the sculptors, saying he continues to be amazed at the talent, skills and creativity of participants.
That creativity often is displayed under duress, such as sculptures collapsing within an hour of judging. That happened to Jack Tracey's team building the "Star Chick Enterprise" but they managed to repair it and win third place in Best of Adults.
Greg Smith of Columbia regularly comes to Charleston for the contest and sculpts with friend Neil Haldrup and Chris Miller, but this year the team showed off its improvisation skills.
"The week before (the competition) we're scheming, collecting pictures and looking on the Internet," Smith said. "This year, we decided to do a Volkswagen Beetle, life size. We started digging, and digging, and digging, and then we hit water. We realized we'd have to dig all day to make the Beetle, so we changed gears. We decided to do a serpent and had to totally wing it."
Their serpent sculpture, called "Spoleto Sam," won second place in the Most Creative category for adults.