Castles in the sand: Annual American Institute of Architects Sand Festival returns to Edgewater

Just about everyone enjoys building sandcastles while spending a day at the beach. For most people, those castles involve a couple of different-sized buckets, a shovel to build a moat, and some creativity.

But bring together more than 10 teams of architects, designers, and other allied industries like the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) and Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, and the sandcastles become intricate works of art.

After a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19, American Association of Architects Cleveland (AIA) is bringing its popular 2022 Sand Festival back to Edgewater Beach this Saturday, Aug. 6 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. This year’s festival is presented by Independence Excavating.

The event raises thousands of dollars in architecture education for college scholarships for students interested in studying structural design and Cleveland Metropolitan School District high schoolers paired with ACE Mentor Program mentors, who encourage careers in design and construction.

The event combines an elaborate sand castle construction competition along with a day-long volleyball tournament with 14 competing teams that are monitored by professional referees.





“We’re so excited to bring Sand Fest back, and to have so many firms committed,” says Sand Fest event co-chair Allison Lukacsy-Love. “We’re excited that the community has come together to support the event, to support the students.”

Each sand castle team has a sign with a description of the project, and “some teams even include renderings,” says Lukacsy-Love. Each sign has a QR code for spectators to vote for their favorite castles.

At 3 p.m. construction stops and a panel of local celebrity judges, including Ward 15 Cleveland City Councilwoman Jenny Spencer, Plain Dealer art and architecture critic Steve Litt, and Cleveland Cavaliers in-arena host Ahmaad Crump, make the rounds to name a winner.

All teams are eligible to win the coveted people’s choice award, “Best of the Beach,” based on the QR code scans. “It’s a great way for people to interact and decide which sand sculpture they like the best,” says Lukacsy-Love.

For the non-professional sand castle builders, this year the Near West Family Network is supporting a community sand pile—which is open to people of all ages and abilities who want to construct their own creations.

Swenson’s, Barrio, and Cleveland Acai will have their food trucks on site, and Cleveland Water will be at the beach for both competitors and spectators.

Before the pandemic, the 2019 Sand Festival was the largest event AIA Cleveland hosted since renewing the summer tradition in 2015. All proceeds raised go to the ACE Mentor Program scholarship fund and in 2019, nearly $8,000 was raised.

“We are on track to give $10,000 this year to the AIA Mentor Program,” boasts Lukacsy-Love. “We’re so excited.”

Read more articles by Karin Connelly Rice.

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.