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Proposal: Block Beach, Charge Fee to Pay for Sandcastle Competition

Organizers want to apply a "reverse marketing" campaign to limit Sun & Sea Festival crowd size on the shoreline that at one time hosted the largest sandcastle competition in the world.

Efforts to bring sand sculpting back to Imperial Beach continue to move forward, and the next few months may be critical in deciding whether a sandcastle competition is held in the city next year.

Headed by Kiwanis Club President Deric Fernandez and PR firm manager Julia Simms, the plan begins with reviving the Sun & Sea Festival. The details are still being hammered out and could change, but the Sun & Sea Festival would take place in spring or fall 2013.

A day prior to the adult's sandcastle competition, a parade, pancake breakfast and kids sandcastle competition will be held.

For the Sun & Sea Festival, a critical question will not be how to attract people, but how to keep them away.

 Organizers want to employ a "reverse marketing" campaign to shrink the event down to about 40,000 people, or about 10 percent the size of the U.S. Open Sandcastle Competition.

After 31 years, U.S. Open competitions came to a close in 2011, after growing to become the largest in the world, attracting an estimated 400,000 people at its height.

No one really knows how many people will actually show up if a competition is held in 2013, Simms said.

“Maybe it will backfire and we only get 20,000 that day, and we'll know how to structure next year,” she said.

One major part of the strategy: Access to the beach may be blocked and an admission fee charged in order to control crowd size and raise money.

A meeting with representatives from the Sheriff's Department has not taken place yet, but smaller crowds may be critical to avoid high sheriff security costs, Simms said.

Forcing attendees to pay admission may also attract “a more desirable audience,” Simms said, instead of “gangs and the hoodlums the sheriff's department was worried about in years past.”

A private firm may also be asked to help with security.

Sun & Sea Festival attendees may be charged $5 per adult and $1 per child with family and online purchase discounts possibly available.

Other tactics that may be employed to limit attendance:

  • Keep "sandcastle competition" out of the title
  • No street vendors
  • No all-day concerts to accompany sand sculpting
  • Paid parking at designated sites only

Sponsors will be sought to help pay for the event. 

A sponsorship proposal will be sent to the Port of San Diego at the end of October.

Unlike the U.S. Open Sandcastle Competition, part of the focus of the Sun & Sea Festival will be to encourage shopping at local businesses. 

No studies were ever conducted to measure the economic impact of the U.S. Open Sandcastle Competition.

Earlier this year, Simms led an attempt to get a 2012 sandcastle competition going, but that effort was abandoned "due to budget issues, road repairs on Seacoast Drive and the sand replenishment project," a statement read.

Those interested in volunteering are encouraged to contact Deric Fernandez at deric2001@yahoo.com or call 619-400-9037.

Eileen October 23, 2012 at 01:40 PM
It is amazing there has been no fee for entering this contest, but it is simply over crowded.
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