BRADENTON BEACH -- It wasn't your typical day at the beach, but nevertheless, there were plenty of good times being had on the sands Saturday.
Art lovers came out to Coquina Beach Saturday to take in the annual sand-sculpting competition, America Recycles Day at Sandblast, and in the evening, were dazzled by the Symphony on the Sand performed by the Anna Maria Island Concert Chorus & Orchestra.
For Bradenton Christian art teacher Debbie Snow, bringing her students to compete in the sculpture contest is an annual tradition.
"It's nice to get out of the classroom and do something fun," Snow said. "They really learn
teamwork, what they need to do and to work individually. They are very focused."
This year's team was made up six students guided by their two art teachers.
"We have done it for years and years," Snow said. "Most of my kids who do this have never done anything like it before."
Teams had a choice between three categories: wildlife, free form and music. The event was hosted by and benefited Keep Manatee Beautiful.
Snow decided the team would try free form for the first time and came up with the idea to sculpt a picnic at the beach. Their design included ants swarming toward the food.
Carley Carbary, 17, anxiously awaiting the judging alongside her classmates to see if their hard work would pay off.
"It was more work than I thought it would be," she said. "Everybody did something separate and then it all came together."
Carley had never competed in the competition before, she said, but is taking ceramics in school. "I've never even built a real sand castle," she said.
Four judges made their rounds, evaluating the team's work based overall skill, uniqueness and whether they portrayed the theme chosen.
"We are looking for imagination," judge Stephen Palladino said.
Palladino, a master sculptor with Team Sandastic, help to build the main sculpture at the event.
Jazlyn OCampo was part of the State College of Florida Earth Club and Alliance Club team that sculpted Minions in a hot tub.
"We came up with the Minion idea all together," OCampo said. "It started evolving then."
This wasn't her first time competing, she said.
"Last year we won first place, so hopefully we win again," OCampo said. "It gets easier. The hardest part was compacting the sand."
Later in the day, beachgoers braved threatening skies and spotty rain to attend the Symphony on the Sand.
The Anna Maria Island Concert Chorus & Orchestra took to the stage just as guests arrived and played right through intermission to complete the night's program, as the rain began.
About a quarter-inch of moisture was recorded early Saturday evening, according to the National Weather Service forecaster John McMichael.
"We are expecting periods of rain to continue tonight and into half of the day tomorrow," he said.
Drier air will move in once the low pressure moves out of the area, he said. Highs are expected to reach 74 degrees with lows in the mid- to upper-50s Sunday night.
As the music wafted out from the large tent and the rain came down, many concertgoers huddled under umbrellas and enjoyed themselves.
"It was fabulous," David Wilkins said after the performance. "I am amazed that the orchestra was able to perform with the humidity."
A Holmes Beach seasonal resident, Wilkins had just arrived back in town a few days before the event and decided to attend. He said he was not disappointed.
"The was chorus was great and the food was great, too," Wilkins said.
Organizers thanked those who attended despite the rain.
Mike Whelan, division manager of Manatee County Parks and Recreation, went from umbrella to umbrella thanking everyone for coming.
"When you ducked under the umbrellas, it was like this canopy," he said.
About 70 percent of those who had tables and 50 percent of those with regular seats showed, Whelan added.
The performance concluded with a rendition of God Bless America.
Nancy Nelson sang along and cheered when it was over.
"I loved it," Nelson said. "This has been an amazing evening, even with the rain."
Nelson, who recently became a year-round resident in Ruskin, said, she can't get enough of Coquina Beach and visits it three times a week.
"Life is beautiful," she said.
Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. Follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.