Jamin May – “Mr. Sand in the City” Pulls Off Any Request During Popular Event

sand in the city
More than 50,000 people are expected to pass through Sand in the City. As a volunteer, Jamin May makes sure that everyone has a fantastic experience.


By Amy Rowley

ramblin jacks logoWhen the sun rises on Sand in the City, Jamin May will be there, directing assignments and getting work done.  Over four consecutive days, Jamin will log at least 14 hours daily, donating almost 60 hours to pull off the major event.

You may find Jamin setting up a tent, directing a dump truck to fill a sand box, or responding to a vendor’s needs.   He is on site when the corporate teams and master sand builders begin creating and he doesn’t quit even when the last guest departs on Sunday afternoon.  Jamin tears down the event, packs up supplies and loads the trucks to return to the storage unit.

More than 50,000 people are expected to pass through Sand in the City, which opens on Friday, August 23 and continues through the weekend.  The popular Olympia festival is a major fundraiser for the Hand On Children’s Museum free and reduced admission programs.  In 2012, the event raised more than $100,000 to support free access to the Museum.

sand in the city olympia
Since 2003, Jamin May (center) has served as the key logistics coordinator for the massive Sand in the City event.

Creating an outdoor event of this magnitude requires immense planning and a massive number of volunteers.

“The main differentiator for a non-profit event is that you don’t have enough resources to completely cover all of the needs of the event,” says Patty Belmonte, Executive Director of the Hands On Children’s Museum.  Belmonte sincerely dubbed Jamin “Mr. Sand in the City” after maybe the third year of volunteering.

Since it’s inception in 2001, Jamin has been helping grow Sand in the City.  A Past President of HOCM’s board of directors, he built a sand castle with his accounting firm during the inaugural year and began assisting with the event logistics in 2003.

“The position just developed.  I happened to be there first thing in the morning and ended up staying until dark,” he says.  “I have a lot of energy so it’s easy to stay 12, 14, 16 hours – whatever it takes.”

“I keep coming back because I enjoy seeing the growth.  There are so many people contributing and I appreciate the overall community involvement,” says Jamin.

sand in the city
More than 50,000 people are expected to pass through Sand in the City. As a volunteer, Jamin May makes sure that everyone has a fantastic experience.

“Jamin’s work, in event staging, is very tiring and physically demanding,” continues Belmonte.  “I am amazed that he has been doing it year after year.”

The physical labor of his job duties during Sand in the City are in complete contrast to his professional life in a downtown Olympia office.   “I enjoy being outdoors and running around.  The hands-on labor is something different from my everyday job,” says Jamin who is the Director of Audit and Accounting for the Olympia office of McGladrey LLC.  “It sure beats sitting in the office during great weather,” he jokes.

“Jamin doesn’t delegate, he is just always working,” describes fellow board member Drew Phillips who also participates in the corporate team sand sculpting competition.

Each day, Jamin is resolving issues.  He handles all the changes that are necessary to transition from one themed day to the next.  “If someone has a request, Jamin just takes care of it.  I have seen him clean out a portable toilet and jump on a tractor to deliver more sand,” adds Phillips.

“Jamin inspires everyone around him to work harder to get through all the demands of the weekend,” says Belmonte.  “It’s easy to follow when you have someone that is passionate, motivated and dedicated.”

Belmonte credits more than 600 volunteers who donate time over the weekend, plus many hundreds more that help prep for the event.  “Producing Sand in the City takes way more effort than simply the Museum staff.  From its beginning, it could not have happened without volunteers,” she says.

sand in the city
Volunteers are critical to pulling off Sand in the City.

Phillips appreciates the other volunteers that work alongside Jamin.  “He usually has a couple of key volunteers that try to keep up with him,” he notes.  “He really drives by example.”

For at least eight years, Jamin’s right hand man has been Graeme Paulsen.  “For four days, we’re best friends.  It’s like hanging out with my brother as we laugh and run around to get stuff done,” describes Jamin who appreciates the days he gets to spend with Graeme.

Jamin has also recruited his wife and children to volunteer at the event.  “It’s very heart warming how he pulls in family and friends to volunteer,” says Belmonte.  “He has even been recognized by his own company for his tremendous dedication to the event.

“Jamin has inspired me to give more of my own time and efforts to the Museum over the years,” says Sam Armour who was recruited to HOCM’s board of directors by Jamin more than ten years ago.

Now, Jamin is encouraging even more people to volunteer.  For the first year, Museum staff will be needed inside the facility since it will be open during the event.  This means more volunteers are needed to pull off event activities.  “You can work with kids and see their excitement making something in a craft tent.  Volunteer just a few hours, if you can,” encourages Jamin.

“Jamin is one of the quiet heroes of the Museum.  He gives dedicated time in a humble way, purely because he believes in what we are doing,” adds Belmonte.  “He doesn’t expect recognition or even a thank you.”

As you weave through the sand sculptures, watch your kids participate in a craft project, or dance to live music during this month’s Sand in the City, know that Jamin is behind it all.  And, then give him a quiet thank you.

sand in the city
Jamin May (in yellow) will be behind the scenes during another Sand in the City.

Sand in the City is a free event at the Hands On Children’s Museum at 414 Jefferson Street NE in downtown Olympia.

Sand in the City Hours:

Friday, August 23 – 10:00 am – 4:00 pm

Saturday, August 24 – 10:00 am – 8:00 pm

Sunday, August 25 – 10:00 am – 5:00 pm

To pitch in and volunteer at Sand in the City, click here.



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