WHITE ROCK â€” Each and every year during the summer months, thousands of visitors descend on the beaches of White Rock like moths to a flame. And while any given summer day on the picturesque waterfront is likely to be packed, crowds are even more ramped up during the annual Sea Festival.
With bands, vendors and other attractions somehow managing to squeeze more people onto an already capacity beach, the festival has become a summer highlight for many. One of those key attractions has been artist Craig Mutch’s sand sculptures, which have appeared at the festival more often than not.
But for the 2015 iteration of the festival, Mutch’s involvement is up in the air after he was asked to contribute $2,500 in order to appear at the event. It’s an amount of money he isn’t sure about paying.
"Personally I’m a little peeved at it," he said. "They want $2,500? That would mean I would be paying to be there."
According to Mutch, the sum represents a contribution he was asked to submit in order to be a part of this year’s festival. He was not asked to pay at previous festivals, and is wondering why this year is different.
The Sea Festival is run by the White Rock Events Society, a non-profit society that formed last year to revitalize the annual festival.
Dave Braun, president of the society, said Mutch is being asked to contribute to the festival since he obtains his own corporate sponsorship, which may be at odds with the organization’s.
"We’re a non-profit society and we have to go out and fundraise to make this festival happen every year," explained Braun.
"We target the local business community and it turns out Craig does the same thing to help him. So he has his corporate sponsorships and accepts donations and has a little vending booth setup on his site. So for (these) three reasons combined, we’ve asked him to contribute to the Sea Festival this year."
Mutch admits that there was a booth set up by his girlfriend last year, which featured taro card readings by his girlfriend, and only recently have his sculptures become self-sustaining. However, the artist feels he’s being unfairly singled out due to his success in recent years.
"I have to hire an (assistant), afford accommodation and it’s only the last couple of years where it’s become profitable," he explained.
"I’ve always been self-sustaining, had to find my own sponsors and so on. They’re looking at last year and saying I’m making a whack of money but not looking at the last 20 years. It’s like looking at a veteran and taking their retirement money, not looking at all the stuff they did in their life."
Mutch first brought his sculptures to the festival in 1988 and has returned to ply his trade around 15 times since. The artist said that more often than not, he’s taken financial hits in doing so, and this time around he’d like to keep it viable. In recent years, he has included logos of sponsors – such as car manufacturers and other businesses – in his displays.
"I understand the big picture that money’s tight," said Mutch.
"Even though there’s million-dollar homes plotted in the hillside, money is tight there. I don’t mind making a contribution but make it $500 and put it toward the cause. Call it a ‘City Utility Fee’ or something for the festival."
Currently, Mutch is exploring the possibility of using a smaller lot, if it would mean having to contribute less. He currently has one sponsor lined up for 2015, but has yet to see any funding from that.
Braun said he’s hopeful something can be worked out, adding it would be a shame if the sculptures were not part of the festival.
"Craig’s sculptures are amazing. We want to have him back, it’s just a question where he’s going to be situated, how much space he’s going to use and whether he’s going to be able to contribute to the festival," said Braun. "We would like to have him on as a partner."