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Ahhhh….that’s the sound of a relaxed INPEX® Director – I recently returned home from a wonderful vacation in Hilton Head, South Carolina. After such an exciting show in June, it was much-needed!

Of course, wherever I go, I’m always thinking about inventions and innovation, and I am always curious as to how the things surrounding us came to be. While I was soaking up the sun in Hilton Head this past week, I watched the children on the beach building majestic sandcastles. They’d fill their plastic buckets with sand, pack it together with water, and sometime later, a giant masterpiece was created. It got me wondering who built the first sandcastle, and how they came to be such a popular part of family vacations.

According to some theories, the ancient Egyptians built sand models of the pyramids. An Indian legend dating back to the 14th century also makes reference to the poet Balaram Das, who built devotional sculptures from sand, but the first documented sand sculpture wouldn’t appear until more than 500 years later.

It is commonly believed that the first artists to profit from their sandcastle building surfaced in Atlantic City, New Jersey, late in the 19th century. Some credit Philip McCord with creating the first true sand sculpture in 1897, which featured a drowned mother and her baby. But, by the early 1900s, word had spread that money could be made from building these giant sandcastles, so “artists” came from near and far to carve out their little patch of sand. They started to overwhelm the Atlantic City beaches, which irritated the town officials. Sometime in 1944, a strong hurricane ripped through Atlantic City, destroying the boardwalk and demolishing the sand dunes. The local government saw this as a blessing in disguise, rebuilding the boardwalk, but banning any sandcastle building along the entire stretch of boardwalk, a law that is still in place today.

In Europe, Professor Eugen Bormel created giant sand sculptures on the German coast at the North Sea summer resort town of Nordeney. His preferred models were mermaids and renditions of the Sphinx, which are still some of the favorite subjects for modern-day sand sculptors.

After World War II ended, and the modern American family started taking beach vacations, family sandcastle contests started popping up all along the east coast. Modern day sand sculpture as we know it really started in California in the early 1970’s, with the teaming up of Gerry Kirk and Todd Vander Pluym, collectively known as Sand Sculptors International (SSI). This team set the standard by organizing teams of sculptors to create incredibly huge and detailed replicas of famous castles and architecture.

Today most children have plastic buckets resembling sandcastle molds and most beaches host at least one sand castle contest each summer. Every year, Western Europe features hundreds of sand sculptors trying to outdo each other in size and special effects.

As always, inventors, enjoy your summer with your friends and family, and keep checking back to my blog and the INPEX® website for updated information regarding our 2012 show!

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