CLEARWATER, Fla. (WFLA) – The Pier 60 Sugar Sand Festival on Clearwater Beach is returning after a two-year hiatus, and it’s going to get “wild.”

The theme of this year’s festival is “SANDimals, An Animal Adventure.”

Fourteen world-class sculptors are bringing animals to life through just sand and water before the Sugar Sand Festival begins on Friday.

Dan Belcher is one of the sculptors. He has created works of art at every Sugar Sand Festival and has been a sand sculptor for over 30 years.

Monday was his fifth day working on carving his creations. He said the entire event is a lot of work for everyone.

“There’s just a lot of work to get all of this sand compacted, all the different piles, get it orchestrated, get the tent up. There’s a lot of logistics,” he said. “Then we all come in, we do some compacting of the sand, sand and water, it’s a lot of shoveling, it’s a lot of work, preparing the basic shape of your pile and then a lot of time carving.”

Belcher has sculpted a dragon and an elephant so far, which has taken him about five days. His next project before the festival begins is a lion.

He said sand sculptors have to get used to the fact they work in a form of art that only lasts for a short time.

“We know that everything we make eventually goes away. It can last maybe a couple hours for an event, or it may stay up for a couple weeks,” Belcher said. “We’ve had things that have stayed up for a year or two inside. But you just know that everything you make is eventually going to go away and you just have memories and photographs.”

Even though the festival has been on a two-year hiatus, founder Lisa Chandler things are currently going “sand-tastic.” She said this would have been the 10-year anniversary of the festival, had things not been cancelled.

“The biggest thing I think is after a two-year hiatus, this is an outdoor event, some people haven’t traveled in awhile, so we are getting inundated with emails and phone calls of people that are actually planning a vacation for the first time in the last two years to come visit Clearwater and our sugar sand beaches,” Chandler said. 

Tickets for the Pier 60 Sugar Sand Festival are $12, but there are free events and activities outside of the exhibit for all to enjoy.

“If you want to learn how to sand sculpt, you can take a free class daily at 2 p.m. from one of the master sculptors. It’s just a really family-friendly event that is a $32 million economic impact to Pinellas County,” Chandler said.

There will also be a live animal exhibit on site families can visit, called the Wildlife Learning Center, in the Pier 60 Pavilion.

The festival will kick off April 8 and run through April 24. More information on events, parking and transportation can be found on the festival’s website.