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Queen of spades to step down

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When Nicky Gurret first took on the annual Sand Sculpture Competition she thought she'd do it for a year and then hand it over to someone new.

It was a new concept at the time, the brainchild of the Institute of Bermuda Architects.

Twenty-one years later she's still at it.

“It is a family event that is so lovely, but I didn't know I would lead it for so long,” the 55-year-old architect said. “I have tried to hand it off a few times.”

But somehow she could never find someone else with enthusiasm to match hers.

She loves building sand sculptures. The first year she organised the competition she held herself back from participating, but the next year she gave up and joined in.

“I usually spend the first couple of hours of the competition walking around, looking at what other people are doing and making sure things are running smoothly,” she said. “Then I start making one myself.”

While some people come with a complicated set of tools and equipment, she does it old school with just buckets and spades.

“One year I worked for hours on a castle, only to have it collapse shortly before the end of the competition,” she said. “It was very frustrating. And no I didn't take a photograph.”

She thinks sand castles are a great metaphor for life.

“The transience of a sand sculpture is wonderful,” she said. “It is here, you capture the moment and then it is gone with the tide. There is something about it that I am really attracted to.

“That is so many things in life including your own self. Your spirit lives on but the physicality goes.”

Some of her happiest childhood memories are of making sand castles on the beach.

“I like making anything,” she said. “That is just in my nature. Making sand sculptures is very soothing, listening to the waves, being on a beach.”

On vacations she often takes a detour to the nearest sand sculpture competition. Last month, she went to a sand sculpture competition in Long Beach, California. While she had fun, she came away thinking the Bermuda one wasn't too bad in comparison.

“I couldn't enter the Long Beach competition because the timing didn't work,” she said. “I did see the professional day when there were several sand sculptures on display. Their sand is finer than ours so you can do a bit more detail, but their beaches are not as beautiful as Bermuda's. Our beaches are really fantastic. They are clean and the sand is more white and pure. The water here is also more aqua and clear than California.

“The Bermuda competition also has a vibe to it that I haven't seen when I have been to other events.”

She's proud of how far the Bermuda event has come over the years.

“I remember exactly how many people entered the first competition,” she said, “it was 12.”

Since then there have been as many as 55 entries and the beach is always crowded with onlookers.

One of her challenges has been finding and keeping sponsors. Some people might think a competition held on a beach would be relatively cheap to run, but she said not so. There are $2,000 worth of prizes, newspaper ads and posters to pay for.

“Nothing is free,” she said.

One of the reasons she'd like to pass on the project is that she has a lot on her plate. She is involved with many different organisations including Agape House and Alliance Français. She arranges flowers, she paints and she loves introducing new events. Pecha Kucha Night and the Bermuda Beach Art Festival are her babies.

“I like to work on new projects and hand over old ones,” she said.

And now she has a really big project in the works, a new business.

“I stopped working for Gibbons Management Services at the beginning of this summer,” she said. “I took the summer off and will hopefully be opening my own business, Nicky Gurret and Associates. My firm will do architecture, interiors, architectural landscaping and art installations.”

And she thinks she has finally found someone to inherit the competition.

“There are a group of people interested,” she said. “I can't say who they are yet, but this may be my last year as organiser.”

There will be free sand sculpture building workshops on Thursday and Friday from 5.30pm to 6.30pm at Horseshoe Bay.

The competition itself will be held at Horseshoe Bay on Saturday. Building will be from 10am to 4pm with judging at 4pm. Entry is free and there are cash prizes. For information or entry forms see their Facebook page under Bermuda Sand Sculpture Competition, call 295-4597 or e-mail sandcastle.entry@hotmail.com

Dig it: Nicky Gurret getting some practice in before the 21st Sand Sculpture Competition on Saturday (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Lifelong love: Nicky Gurret says some of her happiest childhood memories are of building sand castles (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Passing on the reins: Nicky Gurret believes she has found someone to take over the sand sculpture contest (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

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Published August 29, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated August 29, 2016 at 7:35 am)

Queen of spades to step down

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