As Sandcastle Day nears its 50th Anniversary one can’t help, but reflect on the original spirit of this amazing event.  The first Sandcastle was held just a few months after  one of the most powerful earthquakes ever recorded in U.S. history.  This Megathrust quake sometimes referred to as the Good Friday Earthquake shook Anchorage, Alaska to its core.  The term Megathrust refers to a quake that occurs when one tectonic plate is forced under another, otherwise known as subduction.  This type of quake can exceed 9.0 in magnitude; the Good Friday Quake was a 9.2.  Tremors lasted for four minutes and set into motion a tsunami that swept along the North American shoreline.

The subsequent tsunami moved with such strength and velocity that when hitting the shore in Crescent City, California Seagulls were caught in mid-air by the rushing 30 foot waves.  Witnesses have referred to these waves as “walls of water”.  The tsunami wreaked havoc along our shores as well.  The Ecola Creek Bridge was washed away and building on the north end were torn asunder , or inundated with water.  As you can imagine the towns people of Cannon Beach were in shock.  Not only that, the tourism that many relied upon, began to dwindle.  The town was nearly inaccessible.

As the town began to pull itself together, three intrepid women, Margaret Atherton, Billie Grant, and Marion Crowell created a day devoted to family fun at the beach.  In June, after several months of planning, Sandcastle Day was born.  This event was set into place not only to bring tourists back into the town, but was also meant to bring the town together.  Over the last forty-eight years this event has grown in size and in popularity.  The hope to bring tourism back to Cannon Beach was successful and then some!

The early years of Sandcastle Day welcomed kids, families, and even businesses to compete.  The town offered different types of awards, the “Art in Sand Award,” as well as the “Choice Award.”  Parades through town were held in addition to the competition on the beaches.  Sandcastle Day became so popular that some Cannon Beach residents began to wonder if the event was too large to be accommodated.  Parking, lodging, and beach use became a concern.  In  1980 the Sandcastle Day Contest became a topic of heated debate among residents and city officials.  Some felt it had become too “commercialized” and brought more people than our small town could take.  Founding member Crowell suggested that Sandcastle Day was a fun event, to be enjoyed by all.

And indeed it is!  This is one of the few events along the coast that can be enjoyed as thoroughly by locals, as by people from around the world.  Sandcastle Day will be held the weekend of June 8th this year.  To learn more about the 1964 Tsunami and the first Sandcastle Day, or to brown archives or photos of the event, stop by the History Center Thursday through Monday from 1 to 5 p.m.

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