How else can one describe this event any other way than with an experience? With a world-class venue, talent, and prize purse, Neptune's International Sandsculpting Championship has distinguished itself as a premier event unlike any other. From the gallery feel and extended viewing hours, your sandsculpting fill can be quelled with a single visit.

It's been the signature event of the Virginia Beach Neptune Festival since its inception, and has grown to the most prestigious event of its kind in the nation. With an international field of sculptors representing 11 countries from around the world, watch the professionals turn grains of sand into works of art in just 3 days!

32 of the world's most talented sculptors will be in Virginia Beach creating incredible works of art for our viewing pleasure.

Click here to view the 2019 Int'l Sandsculpting Championship winners


A huge tent, almost as large as a football field, will house 22 sculptures created by 12 solo and 10 doubles teams! Sculptors will compete for the largest prize purse awarded in the country.

  • Viewing time of 10 days
  • Walkways and viewing areas providing an intimate view of the process and artwork
  • Lighting for viewing into the evening hours
  • Protection from wind and rain, providing an entertainment option no matter the weather!
  • Unique photo opportunities
  • Live "QuickSand" competitions (These sculptors are quick on their feet!)
  • Meet and Greet opportunities with the extremely talented pool of sculptors!


Friday, 9/24: 9 am - 11 pm
Saturday, 9/25: 9 am - 11 pm
Sunday, 9/26: 9 am - 9 pm
Monday - Wednesday: 9/27 - 9/29: 10 am - 6 pm
Thursday, 9/30: 10am - 8pm (City Employee Appreciation Day)
Friday - Sunday, 10/1 - 10/3: 10am - 6pm

Admission: $5 per person. 12 and under is free while accompanied by adult.

Tent is wheelchair and stroller accessible. NO ANIMALS allowed in the tent.

Entrance to the tent is located at 7th Street


Master Sculptor, John Gowdy, will hold FREE teaching clinics on the beach for your chance to learn from a pro!
Join classes with your friends, classmates, or coworkers for a once in a lifetime, hands-on learning experience.

Saturday, September 25 | On the beach at 6th Street
9:00am - 11:00am: Sandcastle Building 101
1:00pm - 3:00pm: The Art of Sculpting a Dolphin in Sand
4:00pm-6:00pm: Sandcastle Building 101

Sunday, September 26 | On the beach at 6th Street
10:00am - 12:00pm: Sandcastle Building 101

- All sand, water, and tools provided -
- No reservations -
- Arrive before class times to participate -
- Space is limited -

2021 Sculptors TBD




PEDRO MIRA, Portugal & JAKUB ZIMACEK, Czech Republic | THOMAS KOET, Florida & MARTIJN RIJERSE, Nehterlands

Helena Bangert | Holland
Prior to becoming involved in the world of sand sculpting, Helena Bangert studied at the Rietveld Art Academy in Amsterdam (the Netherlands) graduating in 1998 with a major in sculpting/installation art. Over time, sand sculpting has become one of her major activities. Helena designs and carves sand sculptures both commercially and competitively. She has won awards in many competitions including the Neptune Festival in Virginia Beach. Since 2004, ice sculpting has been added to her activities and achievements, winning awards in Italy’s International Snow Sculpting Competition.

Dan Belcher | Missouri
Dan has been creating professional sand sculptures since 1990. He is honored to have learned from many pioneers of the art form, and now to get the privilege of collaborating with, and learning from a family of many of the best and most talented sand sculptors from around the World. During this time he has won 14 world Championship in the Team, Doubles, and Solos categories, and competed in scores of other contests and hundreds of professional projects across the country around the world including Japan, China, Denmark, Italy, Australia, Great Britain and many other wonderful destinations. He loves the balance of the physical and creative sides of working with sand. He is also a Landscape Architect with a degree from Kansas State University. He has been a professional brewer, and has run a few marathons when his schedule allows.

Jonathan Bouchard | Canada
By profession, Jonathan is a graphic designer and drum major. He is also a painter and a wood, fruit and snow carver (expositions and live performing). His favorite expression: “A coeur vaillant, rien n’est impossible”. “Everything is possible for those who work and believe.”

Manuel Campos | Colombia
I am a sand sculptor from Colombia, and I have 35 years of artistic experience, of which 10 have been dedicated to sand sculpture. I had the honor of representing my country in different international competitions in a total of 9 countries (India, Mexico, El Salvador, Venezuela, Sweden, Italy, Uruguay, United States, and Australia) gaining first place in some of them. I like to work with a lot of expressive movement to achieve some kind of connection between the spectator and the sculpture. My favorite works are anatomy especially women's faces. I am also a tattoo artist, muralist and oil painter. At Halloween, I work carving pumpkins.

Matthew Deibert | USA-NJ
Born and raised in Atlantic City and living close to the beaches, Deibert spent many days playing in the sand, a medium readily available and affordable, building sandcastles, walls, tunnels and motes. A firefighter since 1992 he was promoted to Captain in 2004. He is married and has 6 children. After the birth of his first son trips to the beach renewed his interest in sand. Enjoyment transformed into passion after studying the art and discovering Atlantic City’s history of sand sculpture. Competing since 1999, Deibert and his son captured 1st place on the 2011 Travel Channel’s “Sand Wars“. Free time is usually spent with family and friends on the New Jersey shore. He also enjoys playing golf…one place he tries to stay out of the sand.

Ilya Filimontsev | Russia
After studying at the art college in Moscow I worked as a jeweler/goldsmith designing and making jewelry for 7 years. While working as a jeweler I started making ice sculptures and found I enjoyed the combination of traveling and sculpting. I quit my jewelry job and continued to study sculpture for 6 more years at the Moscow State Academic Art Institute of Surikov. I have been sculpting sand since 2005 while traveling all over the world. I have participated in 100 international sand sculpture festivals. (Editor's note: Ilya is too modest, he is a world-renowned sculptor!)

Karen Fralich | Canada
In 1994, a professional sand sculptor hired Karen to help him on a small sand sculpture in a local mall. Karen was immediately addicted and spent the next 4 years learning the rudiments of sand sculpting while still working full-time time in restaurants, clothing sales and mascot costume construction. In 1998, she entered her first international sand sculpting contest and by 2001 she was working full time as a free-lance sculptor. Her work takes her around the world, collaborating with sand sculpture companies in Canada, the USA, Mexico, Italy, Holland, England, Spain, China, Taiwan, Japan and Australia. She loves collaborating with her large extended family of wonderful sand sculptor friends! To date, Karen has competed in over 115 Masters Level International sand sculpture contests, winning 25 First Place Titles. She is a 5-time World Champion and 5-time North American Champion. Karen’s first time in the Neptune Festival was 1998, this is her 14th year of participation!

John Gowdy | Italy/USA-New Jersey
John is a professional sculptor and performance painter. He is an American who has relocated to Castelfranco, Italy near Venice to pursue his interest in art. He sculpts sand, marble, and paints for audiences around the world. Born in Atlantic City, NJ he served 27 years as a firefighter earning the rank of captain before retiring in 2006. In his younger years he was a beach lifeguard for 7 years in Atlantic City. John majored in both Fine Art and Physics at Stockton State College (now Stockton University) and has been sculpting sand professionally for over 25 years. He has a sand sculpture company “Sand Sculptures by John Gowdy & Company LLC” that manages amateur and professional sand events around the world. John has earned many international sand sculpting titles. Too many to mention here. He considers Virginia Beach to be a second home having been a competitor here at The Neptune Festival for 25 years or more. “The Neptune Festival, in my opinion, is the crown jewel of sand sculpting competitions around the world. The friendly management here seeks out and finds the most talented sand sculptors on the planet for your viewing pleasure. It is an honor to be among them. Enjoy the show!”

Aleksei Rybak | Russia
Aleksei was born in Moscow Sept. 30, 1976. He is a 1995 graduate of the Moscow Art College of Applied Art. He received a diploma from the Stroganov Moscow Art University in 2002. He has participated in the Creative Soyuz of the Artists of Russia and International Federation of the Artists in 2002, sculpture category. A section of a sculpture. He became a member of the Moscow Union of the Artists in 2004, sculpture category.

Peter Vogelaar | Canada
Peter is a very versatile artist, working in many media from snow and sand to steel and bronze. He particularly loves sand for the spontaneity of the creative process.The outcome is never certain, and like life, it's an ongoing learning experience. He appreciates the opportunity to share his work with the appreciative audience in Virginia Beach.

Abram Waterman | Canada
Abe Waterman is the rootin'-tootin' son of a cold water plunge in psychedelia and a volcanic explosion of hot gooey marshmallow fudge. Born and raised on the outskirts of the outskirts of the most erroneously wayward side of the tracks, he has forged a reckless path through the mythologies of modern times, leaving behind him a wake of enough scrap thoughts, pixelated debris and discarded jargon to fill nearly 24 life size replicas of the south side of Manhattan. Riding a crescent moon of spinach ravioli consciousness, he is bringing his travel sized, six stringed, pea shooter on his hell fire, brimstone and lollipop journey to Virginia Beach, so pull up your socks, polish your Sunday shoes and get ready to dance Virginia, as if your life depended on it. Because it does.

Brian Wigglesworth | USA-Florida
A multi-media artist from Sarasota, Florida, whose home beach, Siesta Key, was just named #1 Beach in the United States for the second time. Siesta Key is a crystal white sand beach where Brian operates a Professional Sand sculpting company called Sandventure, and has created and oversees a master sand sculpting competition, appropriately named, The Siesta Key Crystal Classic, held the second week in November. After art school, Brian worked in many different art mediums but never got too involved with sand until about ten years ago, but it quickly became his favorite form for expressing his talents. He quickly moved up in the competition world until he was competing against incredibly gifted sculptors from around the world, though competing may be a generous description. He found himself trying to learn as much style and technique as he could from these artists that might better be described as his mentors. Brian was a commercial designer, illustrator and muralist for many years in Minneapolis, MN before retiring to Florida to spend time in the surf and sand. In competitions, he tends to take a graphic approach, attempting to create sculptures that please the crowds rather than express inner soulful, artistic imagery. “I love competing at the Neptune Festival, the largest sand sculpting competition in the country and my personal favorite.” He says it's due to the great people who put it on, the community who gets involved and the company of quality, creative sculptors who enjoy coming together to create and have a great time. Brian was proud to take third place in 2016 with his tribute to Prince, artist from his childhood home of Minneapolis.

Andy Daily | USA - Florida
Andy grew up on Siesta Key Beach in Sarasota Florida and attended the Visual Performing Arts program at Booker for two years where he studied all mediums of art. It wasn’t untiil 2011 that the art of Sand Sculpting was introduced to him from a girlfriend (now wife). Totally immersed from the beginning, Andy branched out by working for local artist on various sand projects and entering and winning sand sculpting competitions. In 2017 he teamed up with a friend to start Sandventure,a Sandsculpting Company. This occupation is one that not only pays the bills but feeds his soul.

Karlis Ile | Latvia
Karlis, a professional sculptor since 1999, creates sculptures from various materials - bronze, stainless steel, granite, wood and other. In recent years he has worked mostly with ice, snow, fire and sand, because he likes how the primeval force of these natural materials, along with the magic of the moment, is like live music that makes energy to vibrate. A graduate of the Art Academy of Latvia he holds a master's degree in art and humanities and has improved his knowledge at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (Greece). Karlis completed a figural sculpture Master workshop and continues to operate successfully in the field of figurative sculpture. A sculptor believes that the human figure never loses its relevance in art because it is like a mirror of the human soul and can always be created following the spirit of the age. Proof is in the numerous awards from international festivals in many European countries, Canada and the USA.

Maija Puncule-Ile | Latvia
Maija Puncule is a multidisciplinary Latvian artist. She started art activities in the Textile. In 2015, she graduated from Art Academy of Latvia Textile department with a Master’s Degree. She has improved her art knowledge at Vilnius Academy of Arts (Lithuania) and Polytechnic University of Leiria (Portugal). Expanding her own art boundaries, she started to work in the field of sculpture and entered the sculpture department at Art Academy of Latvia. In 2019, Maija achieved a Master’s Degree in Sculpture. She creates sculptures in different materials, including wood, ceramic, metal, sand, ice, snow and fire. Currently, she is focused on research of fire sculptures and their place in art and historical development. Maija has collaborated with Latvian sculptor Karlis Ile since 2010. Together, they have won many awards at ice, snow, and sand sculpture festivals around the world: Japan, China, Russia, Canada, Switzerland, and Germany. Sand sculpting has been an important part of Maija’s artistic expression since 2013.

Edith van de Wetering | Netherlands
“When I was young I hated sand between my toes, but now I could not live without it. I started sculpting sand through my architecture education at the Technical University. Participating in the sand sculpture festival in Scheveningen started as a hobby, but got out of control very fast. I have been traveling around the world to build sand, snow and ice sculptures for over 15 years.”

Wilfred Stijger | Netherlands
“I started sculpting sand on the beach of Katwijk, where I was born after reading a book by Pieter Wiersma. His work impressed me a lot. After receiving many good reactions from the people passing by I joined the sandsculpture festival in Scheveningen. Here I met Gerry Kirk, sculptor, and he invited me to work with him. Through his network I was invited to festivals and competitions. Now I travel around the world to give people beautiful sculptures in sand, snow and ice. One day I hope to organize my own festival.”

Meredith Corson-Doubleday | USA-FL
Meredith has been sculpting sand for 32 years. In 1985 she volunteered to help on a Guinness record breaking sand sculpture and got hooked. “I have no formal art training but I have always worked with my hands. Sand was a natural fit for me”. “How lucky am I, that I found a way to make my passion, my profession? I have fun at work every day and you are standing in my office”.

Dan Doubleday | USA-FL
To me, life is an adventure. In my younger years I followed my wanderlust. I made a living in many occupations over the years. A welder, well driller, computer operator, seafood cannery plant manager, commercial fisherman, lumber mill worker, general contractor and woodworker. I started sculpting sand on the beaches of Santa Cruz, CA in 1995 and stuck with that. I met Meredith at a competition in 1996. We have been traveling the world creating sculptures ever since.

Andrius Petkus | Lithuania
Petkus holds BA and MA degrees in sculpture from Vilnius Academy of Arts. He has had personal exhibitions in Lithuania and won many competitions in Lithuania, Latvia, Russia, Italy, Finland, China, Australia, and the USA. He has participated in art events and festivals in Lithuania, Latvia, France, Holland, Hungary, Finland, Russia, Italy, Turkey, Australia, China, USA, and Germany. Petkus has also organized many international sculpture symposiums and festivals in Lithuania (stone, wood, steel welding, pumpkin carving, fire sculptures and concrete). “I am working, enjoying, and …. winning!” says Petkus.

Dmitry Klimenko | Russia
In 2004 Dmitry graduated from the Saint Petersburg State Academy of Art and immediately began ice carving. He entered the sand world in 2005 plunging deeper and deeper into sand carving with it’s never ending possibility to grow. He won medals in Saint Petersburg and Moscow and has since carved sand in Canada, the Dominican Republic, Italy, Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Latvia, Poland, and Russia. He also works in wood and bronze.

Andrey Vazhynskyi | Ukraine
Andrey was born in September, 1975 in Kharkov, one of the biggest cities of Ukraine. After completing art school in 1996, he then entered the University – Kharkov Academy of Design and Art. In 2001 he successfully graduated as a Master of Arts in sculpture. Since 2003 he has been a participant in numerous Ukrainian republican exhibitions. In 2004 he become a member of the Artists Union of Ukraine and participated in his first festival of sand and ice sculpture and has since been involved in many events each year. He likes to work with many different kinds of material including sand, bronze, marble, wood and ice.

Wiaczeslaw Borecki | Poland
Slava is a graduate of National Art College in Kharkov (Ukraine) and Academy of Fine Arts in Poznan (Poland). After studies he worked as an Assistant in the Department of Sculpture. Since 1996 Slava has participated in sand and ice festival and competitions all over the world and won many awards?. He also works with polyester, bronze and stone. His works have been shown in individual and collective exhibitions in many European countries

Bagrat Stephanian | Russia

Stepanian, renowned sculptor of sand, snow and ice, is a 2004 graduate of the Moscow State University of Art. “I´ve been interested in sand and ice from my childhood when I played with other children and created little sand castles on the beach in summer and made snowmen during winters in Moscow. At first it was just my hobby, later becoming the occupation of my life,” says Stepanian. His career began in 1998 and includes four international 1st and 2nd place wins in sand and three in ice and snow. He was part of the creative team which directed the “Great Roman Empire,” a Moscow sand project, and is an artistic director for the indoor ice museum in Moscow.

Donatas Mockus | Lithuania
After completing his education Donatas worked for the Kruonis culture center; as artist for Lithuanian newspapers; at the Kaunas State Puppet Theatre as master of scenography and puppets; and as the organizer for the Ice Sculpture Park in Plateliai, Lithuania. His extensive bio includes numerous projects, exhibitions, festivals and competitions in snow, ice and sand, winning place awards, peer awards/recognition and people's choice awards in each category. He also works in wood and metal. His creativity and talent appears limitless

Inese Valtere-Ulande | Latvia
Inese, was born in 1980, in Latvia. She received a master's degree in 2009 from Latvia Art Academy, Sculpture department after achieving her baccalaureate degree in 2006. Her work experience includes graphic designer, drawing/modeling teacher in Marupe Art School, Latvia, and as a visual advertising designer and director/artist. She began her professional sculpting career in 2015 participating in an international snow sculpture competition in Russia winning 2nd place. Her career includes fire, ice, snow and sand festivals/competitions. She has won many awards including artist choice. Inese is competent in many artistic mediums including wood. She has participated in exhibitions and competed and placed in solo and doubles categories in many countries including the USA winning 3rd place in 2012 at the Budweiser International Snow Sculpture Festival in Breckenridge Colorado.

Pedro Mira | Portugal
Pedro Mira was born in 1970 in Lisbon, where he studied sculpture at the Faculty of Fine Arts and photography at the Portuguese Institute of Photography. He began his career in the early 90s and has exposed at various art exhibitions since then. For several years he sculpted in silver for a famous silversmith in Lisbon while also working in photography, design and sculpture in other mediums. Besides creating his own work, Pedro has also worked with other artists, sculpting and developing moulds using various techniques. He currently develops his work in a private studio in Portugal and sculpts in sand at major festivals and competitions around the world and has been distinguished with several awards.

Jakub Zimacek | Czech Republic
Jakub began sand sculpting on the beaches of South Spain in 2003. He participated in his first international sand sculpting festival in Portugal in 2005. Since then he has sculpted sand all around the world and has won several prizes in competitions, notables include Australia, Latvia, South America and Switzerland. He decided 2018 was a good time to come to America. When not sculpting he enjoys being home with his family enjoying his town and mountains.

Thomas Koet | USA - Florida
Thomas Koet is the 2010 World Champion of Sand Sculpting and has been sculpting for 22 years. His World Champion win was a shining moment in his career, competing against 27 artists from 17 countries. In 2019 Thomas won the “Best Sand Sculptor of the Netherlands” for a national T.V. show. Large events give Thomas the opportunity to make his art on an impressive scale. Originally from the Netherlands, Thomas has a Master’s degree in Industrial Design Engineering and has been a designer and sculptor for some of Europe’s and North America’s largest sand sculpting events. Thomas’ artistic goal is to make extraordinary sculptures with the highest quality possible. His ability and talent has taken him all over Europe and the U.S. as well as China, Korea, Japan, Indonesia the Middle East and Canada

Martijn Rijerse | Netherlands

In another century, I was studying hard to become an architect when some friends came up with the idea to form a team at a sand sculpture competition. At that time making something other than dykes out of sand was a completely alien concept to me, but once I carved my first block of compacted sand I was hooked! Not every sculpture I made back then remained standing, but through trial and collapse I learned what is and is not possible in all those different types of sand around the world. When working in sand I love to combine figurative and abstract sculpture to make pieces that do more than just replicate the world around us. I'm always looking for some kind of concept, or feeling behind the sculpture. This is the way I hope to engage the audience, and also (not unimportant), challenge and motivate myself to create sand sculptures again, and again... and again (they tend to disappear ;). My work consists of participating in big scale events, competitions, demonstrations, workshops in sand, ice and snow but also making sculptures and designs in foam for theme parks and festivals. Over the years I have been lucky enough to be able to work in quite a number of countries, the list includes Holland, Denmark, Germany, Belgium, France, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, England, Italy, Latvia, Georgia, Russia, the United States, Canada, China, Japan, Israel, Thailand, Taiwan and Australia.