Canadian Damon Langlois was stunned when it was announced that his artwork "Fallen Empire" was chosen as the best sculpture at the World Championship of Sand Sculpting awards ceremony behind Holiday Inn on Fort Myers Beach on Sunday.
Like many spectators, the Vancouver Islands master sculptor had his camera aimed and ready to shoot when his name and four-day carving was announced for the World Championship title out of 24 international sculptures.
"This is unbelievable," Langlois said afterwards. "You just come out, put your heart into the piece and do the best piece you can do. You don't know how the judging will turn out."
Four judges - led by Worlds' Executive Director Charlie Beaulieu and Assistant Worlds Director Suzanne Altamare-selected USA Master Sculptor Brad Goll's "Post Traumatic Stress Disorder" at No. 2; USA Master Sculptor Carl Jara's "Stretched Too Thin" at No. 3; Ireland Master Sculptor Fergus Mulvany's "Bask" at No. 4; and Singapore Master Sculptor Joo Heng Tan's "Dancing Dragon" at No. 5. "Dancing Dragon" was also chosen as the Sculptor's Choice among the World's best sculptors.
Langlois, still registering disbelief, held his trophy high after receiving top solo honors before explaining his inspiration behind "Fallen Empire."
"Tyranny always falls, whether it is Iran or the banking system," he said. "Most tyrannical empires will fall. That is the message with my piece."
Langlois stated he had been involved in World competition with Team Canada's "Sand Boxers" for 19 years, but only gained his first team victory after 13 years on the circuit.
"We competed for a long time before winning top prize. I've done a few solos, but first place has eluded me. There is nothing better than to get a first place at the Worlds," he said.
The World Championship of Sand Sculpting is an 11-day festival that will conclude on Sunday, Nov. 27. The beach festival will push through the Thanksgiving holiday weekend and the People's Choice Award will be announced on that final day.
Sand Lubbers official and Co-Event Director Bill Knight thanked all the sponsors to start the awards ceremony. They included Big C Events, Pinchers Crab Shacks, Sand Lubbers, Texas Tony's BBQ Shack, Holiday Inn, The Town of Fort Myers Beach and the entire Town Council, Fish Tale Marina, Cruzan Rum, Key West Express, the Fort Myers Beach Fire Department, 7-11 stores, Costco, Y100, Cat Country 107.1, The River 95.3, Bud Light, Absolut and Xtreme Air Sports Co.
"The Kiwanis International Organization and Teen Challenge International Southwest Florida were two organizations that we could not have done this event without. They provided all the volunteers to make this event happen," said Knight. "The proceeds of this event will benefit both of them."
Beaulieu thanked all for attending and gave a special shout-out to Jason Camp of Big C Events before he announced the awards.
"His orchestration with putting everybody all together and helping keep pieces into place was just wonderful," he said.
During the remaining seven days of the festival, sculptors will be on-site to create additional exhibition art, participate in fun competitions, answer questions about their masterpieces and interact with the attendees. Some highlights include a 350-ton sculpture, "Quick Sand" speed sculpting competitions, chain saw art demonstrations, live music, nightly lit sculptures and "Flying Colors" paintings to be auctioned for charity.
The festival site behind the Holiday Inn will also include a kid's activities area with bounce houses, water slides and games, photo opportunity sculptures for holiday-themed cards and many vendors scattered inside the fenced-in area.
Attendees can witness the standing world-caliber art by purchasing a ticket to get into the viewing area. The fees are $6 for adults, $5 for children age 5 to 17 or free to those children younger. Attendees are encouraged to purchase discounted tickets in advance at any Pinchers Crab Shack location or at the Holiday Inn for just $5.
Sand sculpting event organizers are encouraging festival-goers to take a revolving bus system to transport attendees from the Lover's Key parking area to the site. Parking is also available in the Publix shopping center at the corner of Bonita Beach Road and U.S. 41 where the Lee County beach trolley will pick up festival-goers.