Oak Harbor beach will be a canvas for local driftwood artists Sept. 15

This driftwood and seaweed airplane sculpture was a favorite at a past Driftwood Day. Everyone is welcome to compete Saturday, Sept. 15.  - --
This driftwood and seaweed airplane sculpture was a favorite at a past Driftwood Day. Everyone is welcome to compete Saturday, Sept. 15.
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Grab a pile of driftwood, throw in some kelp and agates and add a big scoop of imagination at Windjammer Park for the seventh annual Driftwood Day competition.

Using only materials discovered on the beach that day, contestants create driftwood sculptures and compete for 12 trophies. Registration begins at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 15 at Windjammer Park, creating starts at noon and judging starts at 1:30 p.m.

“It’s a fun family event. It’s free. It’s just a lot of fun and it brings a little art to Oak Harbor,” said Skip Pohtilla, co-event organizer with his wife, K.C. Pohtilla, who came up with the idea for the event.

Don’t expect simple sculptures at this competition, though.

“Some folks made sea turtles, there’s been airplanes, boats. There was a couple of eagles that were made,” Pohtilla said. Someone even constructed a couple on a prom date, the girl wearing a dress made of seaweed and holding a bouquet of flowers. “It’s really amazing what folks come up with. It’s whatever the imagination comes up with. It’s quite impressive,” Pohtilla said.

The only limitation is that participants can only use what they find on the beach that day.

“You can’t bring anything with you. If you want to dig a hole, you’ve got to use a piece of driftwood. People scour the beach for just about anything,” Pohtilla said. Despite the scavenging, there have never been any fights over materials, Pohtilla said.

The artist consultant and one of the judges this year is Kevin Pettelle, of Sultan, well-known for creating the Moon Waves art on Pioneer Way.

As the beach is transformed into a creative land of giant sea turtles and starfish, or pirate ships and airplanes, the judges walk among the competitors and talk to them about their inspiration to get a better idea of the story behind the art, Pohtilla said.

One of Pohtilla’s favorite sculptures was a pirate ship complete with a driftwood treasure chest that the creators collected trash in. They had an entire story behind their creation, which the judges took into account, Pohtilla said.

When it comes time to award trophies, competitors can enjoy the uniqueness of each trophy, a driftwood sculpture in and of itself. Members of the Oak Harbor Arts Commission put the driftwood trophies together then the Pohtillas’ daughter, Morgan Mann, paints names and images on the bases.

K.C. Pohtilla came up with the idea for Driftwood Day. At an arts commission meeting soon after the commission began, members were brainstorming what an arts commission would do and K.C. Pohtilla said, “’Why don’t we have a Driftwood Day?’ It took a little convincing but the commission got onboard,” Skip Pohtilla said.

Last year, more than 40 teams made of 156 participants stormed the beach to the enjoyment of 300 spectators. Participants from as far as Connecticut, Australia, the Virgin Islands and Missouri joined in. That number has more than doubled since the first year of the competition.

“It’s also an event to draw folks into town from off island,” Pohtilla said.

After the judging, participants and spectators are welcome to bring a picnic and watch the tide reclaim the sculptures, Pohtilla said.


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