Dig Sand in the City This Weekend in Olympia



By Megan Conklin

heritage bankIs there anything better than a day at the beach? Especially when you don’t actually have to drive to the beach to experience it? This year’s Sand in the City event at the Hands On Children’s Museum (HOCM) combines all of the traditional, beachy favorites with a few exciting new twists, to hit the perfect note of old-meets-new fun in the sand.

This is the HOCM’s fourteenth year hosting Sand in the City, a free, two-day community event that is so chock full of enjoyable and engaging activities that it is guaranteed to please the whole family, from toddlers to grandparents. Like the name of the museum implies, all of the events featured at Sand in the City are very hands on and usually even manage to be educational in an “I am having so much fun, I can’t actually be learning” sort of way.

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The giant smiles playing in the sand produces makes all the mess worth it at Sand in the City. Photo credit: Aaron Barna

My children always head straight to the giant sandboxes; they are so simple, yet so fabulous.  My crew would most likely spend the whole day playing and building in the sand if weren’t for the kids with colorfully painted faces streaming by, chattering about the giant climbing wall and the live animals (bunnies!). They eventually get seduced out of the sandboxes by the plethora of other activities available, and race off to hunt for seashells in the sand, blow gigantic bubbles, or create a sand-themed craft.

While participation in all outdoor events at Sand in the City is free, donations are appreciated.  The donations go to great use – 100% of the proceeds fund free and reduced museum admissions for families.  This is an amazing gift to so many in our community.

This is the third year Sand in the City will be at the HOCM’s new location on Jefferson Street, and this amazing new space just keeps getting better. This year, Sand in the City activities will enliven the inside of the Museum as well as the new Outdoor Discovery Center. The theme of the inside activities will have a distinct Polynesian flair with everything from Poi Balls to make-and-take eruptible mini volcanoes. Another new bonus this year is a discounted museum entrance fee of $5 per person for non-HOCM members (all outside activities are donation only and do not require a museum membership).

Of course, the real highlight of the event for my family is viewing the giant sand sculptures. It wouldn’t be Sand in the City without them, and this year they promise to be spectacular. A variety of Master Sand Sculptors will be on hand to create the colossal sand monuments. This year’s Masters’ Sand Sculpting Exhibition will give the community the opportunity to see some of the best carvers from the West Coast at work as they transform sand into art.

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Master Sand Carvers will create the beloved, giant sand sculptures at Sand in the City this year. Photo credit: Aaron Barna

Lisa Donze, a Master Sculptor with Sand in the City since 2010, is excited to showcase her passion at this year’s event. Donze sculpts sand all over the world, most recently travelling to India to participate in an international sand carving event. Olympia’s annual sand extravaganza holds a special place in her heart. “I love Sand in the City and am excited about this year’s opportunity for local Master Sand Carvers to showcase their talent,” Donze explains. Donze, a South Sound native and mother of two, encourages families to come play in the sand on Saturday and Sunday.

Sunday is Grandparents’ Day at Sand in the City and, in addition to all the other happenings, there will be special activities for grandparents and grandchildren to enjoy together. Sunday is a great day to attend this event because the Master Sculptors will be putting the finishing touches on their masterpieces – and you can vote for your favorite one.

As if all that is not enough, there is food! Many, South Sound food trucks, restaurants, and eateries will be on hand to feed the hungry masses. As you eat, enjoy the variety of free, live performances lighting up the stage throughout the weekend. From Irish dancers to country dancers to Martial Arts devotees, there really is something for everyone at Sand in the City.

You will return home from Sand in the City feeling as if you spent a day at the beach.  The kids will be happily exhausted.  Hands will be dirty and baths will almost certainly be required. Shoes will come off, leaving tiny piles of sand in their wake. Which, of course, is why we love it so.



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Face painting is just one of the many, exciting activities your family will love at this treasured community event. Photo credit: Aaron Barna

Sand in the City at the Hands On Children’s Museum

414 Jefferson Street NE in Olympia

Saturday, August 23 from 10:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.

Sunday, August 24 from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.


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