A team of world champion sand sculptors are forming 50 tons of sand into a scene from a one-room schoolhouse in honor of All Schools Day.

A team of world champion sand sculptors are forming 50 tons of sand into a scene from a one-room schoolhouse in honor of All Schools Day.

Jill Harris and Thomas Koet of Sandsational Sandsculpting, which is based in Florida, have been working on the piece at the corner of Ash Street and Kansas Avenue in McPherson since April 30.

The sculpture is set to be finished Thursday and should be on display at least until Sunday. The sculpture is available to view to the public free of charge.

The duo have created their sculptures all over the world, most recently in Japan where they sculpted an Asian market.

The sculptors started sculpting as a hobby, but their art grew into a business, Harris said. Now after 17 years in the biz, they sculpt commissioned works for festivals and museums all over the nation and the world.

Larry Sigle, All Schools Day cochairperson, first got the idea of bringing Sandsational to McPherson after he and his wife attended a sandsculpting competition while visiting Florida.

“After I saw the work that was done by the sculptors, I thought it would be neat to do it for the 100th,” he said.

Harris and Koet researched the history of the All Schools Day festival and brought several design ideas to the All Schools Day committee. The committee ultimately settled on the one-room schoolhouse design.

All Schools Day began in 1914 because the superintendent of schools decided it was easier to bring all the eighth-grade graduates from the one-room schools together rather than spend the entire summer traveling to the more than 100 schools across the county distributing diplomas.

Harris and Koet are using old photographs in order to better depict the clothing and scene of the schoolhouse, right down to the potbellied stove.

Harris and Koet joked that no one in the sculpture will be wearing a mini-skirt or talking on an iPhone.
The sculpture itself is made of nothing but sand and water. The sand grains have to be sharp-edged instead of round so the grains will stick together. The sand for this sculpture came from Junction City. It is poured into wooden molds and compacted. As the sculpture took shape, the wooden molds were removed.

The artists use a variety of tools on their sand pieces, the most common are masonry tools and shovels, but you also will see them using sculpting tools, palette knives, cake decorating tools and even kitchen utensils, such as spoons and melon ballers.

The sculptures will have worked eight days at least eight hours per day to sculpt this very temporary art piece, but neither said they were bothered by the temporary nature of their art form.

“We compare it to Thanksgiving dinner,” Harris said. “You do all that work and preparation. It’s gone in 15 minutes, and all you have left is a pile of dishes.”

Koet said he was attracted to the temporary nature of the art form.

“You make something for the eyes. You make it one time only and then it is through,” he said.

A local sand sculpting event will be conducted after the parade until 5 p.m. Friday for local youth in middle school and high school. The event, which will include 20 more tons of sand, also will be at the corner of Ash Street and Kansas Avenue.

The following business helped sponsor the sand sculpture: Peoples Bank & Trust, Hospira, Sunflower Bank, Hassman Termite and Pest Control and Walmart. The following businesses and organizations offered in-kind support of the sculpture: McPherson Rental Center, McPherson Fire Department, McPherson Police Department, Tractor Supply, Orscheln Farm & Home, McPherson Concrete, McPherson Parks Department, Jantz Lumber & Hardware and Stutzmans Garden Center.