navigation bar Houghton Mifflin History-Social Science California Studies
Weekly Reader ® Current Events

New Traditions

People throughout California celebrate the culture, crops, and special features of the state with special events and activities. The Vietnamese Spring Festival in San Jose celebrates the culture of Vietnamese Americans. The Asparagus Festival in Stockton celebrates a tasty crop. The California Poppy Festival in Lancaster celebrates a special flower found throughout the state.

Some events, such as the California Rodeo, have been a tradition for more than one hundred years. Others are new. For example, in the past 20 years, Californians up and down the Pacific coast have launched a tradition of sandcastle building contests. Hundreds of these events take place along the state's 840-mile coastline every year. One big contest is held in Santa Barbara, and another takes place at Point Reyes National Seashore.

The biggest contest is the U.S. Open Sandcastle Competition near San Diego. About 40 teams of some of the world's best sandcastle artists come to Imperial Beach to scoop, carve, and mold sand into eye-popping sculptures

Not Just Castles

The competition, which began in 1981, takes place over three days in July. Each team gets five hours to complete its sculpture. Large sandcastles are just some of the jaw-dropping creations at a typical U.S. Open. The results can be anything from a race car track complete with car crashes to sculptures of popular movie characters.

No special training or equipment is needed to enter. Many of the best tools for shaping sand are kitchen utensils such as ice cream scoops. As in any other art form, however, practice makes perfect. “You have to know how to push the sand, without pushing the sand too far,” artist Lucinda Wierenga told the New York Times.

A Huge Event

The first U.S. Open Sandcastle Competition drew about 30,000 spectators. In recent years, more than ten times that number have come to the event. The U.S. Open now includes a parade, fireworks, and a ballroom dance. Many people come back year after year to see the new sand carvings.

Temporary Works of Art

A first-place sculpture can earn a team more than $5,000 in prize money. Other than possible prize money, the teams take home only photographs and memories. When high tide rolls in, the works of art are washed away. The piles of sand that remain wait to become another group of masterpieces at next year's festival.