PARKSVILLE — A first-time winner from Italy stole the show at the 35th annual Canadian Open Sand Sculpting Competition in Parksville.
Leonardo Ugolini took home the top prize Sunday night in the individual category with his piece titled "Spirits of Canada."
“Everybody had a good idea and great quality,” Ugolini told NanaimoNewsNOW. “We know about this kind of event, it's like a lottery.”
Ugolini said his creation features an Indigenous man and silhouettes of a broad range of people to showcase Canada's diverse culture.
Ugolini also won the competitors' choice award, which is voted on by his peers.
The doubles category winners were David Ducharme of Nelson, B.C., and Dimitry Klimenko of Russia with their entry "Canadian Mosaic." The doubles winners featured influential Canadians, including icon Terry Fox.
Marielle Heessels & Hanneke Supply of the Netherlands won the doubles competitors' choice for their sculpture called "A Coming Together."
Parksville Beach Festival Society president Cheryl Dill said she was blown away by the originality of the sandcastles.
“We're always surprised and this year we were really surprised with how creative the sculptures are recognizing Canada,” Dill said. “We expected to see some typical Canadian things, but we're seeing well beyond that.”
Dill said the weather, sand quality and the organization behind the entire 30-hour competition all went smoothly.
“We're incredibly pleased with how everything came together,” Dill said.
Cash prizes of $43,000 are handed out among the 15 soloists and seven doubles teams.
The sandcastles remain standing at Parksville's waterfront in the Community Park until Aug. 15 and can be viewed daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. for a suggested donation of $3.
A record 133,430 people viewed the sandcastles through the five-week event last year.
On Twitter: @reporterholmes