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Sand fortress, July 1980
A sand fortress, July 1980 Photo: George Vetter

Cannon Beach Sand Castle Contest

Begun in 1965 by Bill Kitterman and Billie Atherton Grant as promotional event for this small Oregon coastal town, the Cannon Beach Sand Castle Contest is the first and oldest sandcastle contest in the continental United States. It takes place at the foot of Haystack Rock, the world's third largest monolith. On March 27, 1964, Cannon Beach was hit by a tsunami. Although it did considerable property damage, it had the unexpected effect of revitalizing the town.

In its aftermath, on July 10, 1965, the lowest tides of the century took place, and reporters flocked to the Cannon Beach to cover this rare event. Capitalizing on the media attention, Atherton-Grant and Kitterman came up with the idea of holding a sandcastle contest in Cannon Beach in August 1965, attracting 32 entries, and it has grown ever since. In the peak years of the 1980s and early 1990s, crowds were variously estimated between 25,000 to 45,000. It has continued to attract media attention, appearing in such well-known publications as Sunset Magazine.

Along with a prize for "Best Art in the Sand," the event now includes an annual poster contest, with local artists producing posters designed especially for the event, a parade, and prize bags for kids under 12. The Cannon Beach Sand Castle Contest is now entering its 36th year.

Project documentation includes a 16-page narrative, three slides, 30 photographs, a video, a newsletter from 1964, the official contest rules, and a list of years of the contest with prize-winning poster artists.

Originally submitted by: Gordon Smith, Senator.



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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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