VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – This weekend is the 49th Annual Neptune Festival Boardwalk Weekend. Starting on Friday, Sept. 29 visit the Virginia Beach Oceanfront from 2nd to 33rd Streets for entertainment, vendors, art and more.

They expect 400,000 people to attend the boardwalk weekend, according to Kit Chope, CEO and President of the Neptune Festival.

International Sandsculpting Championship

Before the weekend begins, artists have been busy at work preparing for the International Sandsculpting Championship.

32 artists from 15 different countries are competing this year. They will use sand, water and a few tools to create intricate sand sculptures.

“Monday morning at 8 a.m. we literally blew a horn and the sculptors went to work,” said Chope.

They have until Thursday, Sept. 28 at 2 p.m. to work on their sand sculptures. The judging will begin, and the results will be finalized Thursday evening.

Sandsculpting Gallery

The sand in Virginia Beach is not the right composition, so they bring in hundreds of tons sand for the competition.

“I have all the respect in the world for these artists, going from a pile of sand, 15 tons or so, to creating these sculptures that you see around here,” said Chope.

Some test limits and work to challenge the piece’s structural integrity. They aim for height, or create holes through the sand.

“It’s fun to see every year, who really pushes the limits and how they push the limits,” said Chope.

Some of the world-class professionals have returned year after year, like John Gowdy.

“Virginia Beach is probably the best event we have on the circuit, been here thirty years, I’ve lost count,” said Gowdy.

He works to make each piece unique. This year his design is personal with a military theme.

“My Dad was a Navy man, and I know this is a Navy area,” said Gowdy. “It is going to be an emotional piece, a tear jerker.”

He says this year’s competition has a world-class group. It is one of the strongest he has competed against.

This year, visitors have the chance to learn from these master sculptors. Free sand clinics will be held on Saturday, Sept. 30 and Sunday, Oct. 1. No reservations are required. All sand, water and tools are provided. Make sure to arrive early to get your spot. Click here to find the schedule.

Gowdy will be teaching at the clinic. He said they are for everyone and every level, and to bring the whole family.

Throughout the weekend, visit the tent located between 6th and 8th Streets to view the works. The entrance will be on 7th Street. Here are viewing hours, below.

  • Friday and Saturday, Sept. 29-30: 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.
  • Sunday, Oct. 1: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Monday through Sunday, Oct. 2-8: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The sculptures will be on display through Oct. 8. To visit, tickets are required and cost $7 per person (cash only). Children ages 12 and under are free while accompanied by an adult. A portion for each ticket will benefit The Governor’s School for the Arts.

Find out more about this year’s artists at the link here. Visit to find more information about the festival.


There are traffic alerts from Hampton Roads Transit ahead of the weekend festival, parade, and Neptune 8K Race.

On Saturday, Sept. 30, routes 21, 34, and 25 will detour. Route 30 service will begin at 2 p.m. HRT says the lineup for the routes at 3rd and Atlantic Ave will be moved to 19th and Parks, until after 2 p.m.