Nova Scotia

Sands of time: N.S. family keeps 20-year tradition going despite pandemic

A Nova Scotia family kept to a tradition it has had for 20 years and spent Sunday building a giant sandcastle at Clam Harbour Beach. The official sandcastle competition was cancelled due to the pandemic.

'I like that it involves everybody ... it's just a way to stay connected'

The Giza family has been competing for 20 years and has taken home the top prize 7 times. (Brooklyn Currie/CBC)

A Nova Scotia family is keeping an annual tradition alive despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Giza family has been taking part in the Clam Harbour Beach sandcastle competition since 2000. It was cancelled this year, but the Gizas hit the beach anyway to build yet another masterpiece in the sand.

Ardelle Giza and her brother, Graeme, used to compete against each other until they decided to team up and take their shot at placing in the competition. Their first sand sculpture was a giant chessboard.

Now team Giza is made up of Ardelle, her wife, her brother and his daughter.

Courtney Giza, 23, said she's taken part in the competition for as long as she can remember and doesn't plan to stop any time soon. (Brooklyn Currie/CBC)

"I like that it involves everybody ... it's just a way to stay connected," she said.

Courtney Giza, Ardelle's niece, is 23 and said she's been taking part in the competition for as long as she can remember.

"We don't really have any other traditions, so it's a nice beach day for all of us," she said. "This is kind of the only day where I really get out and play in the sand."

Courtney Giza used a utility knife to carve tiny details into the sandcastle. (Brooklyn Currie/CBC)

Courtney said coming out this year and following through with the tradition is a good way to keep her mind off the pandemic, even just for a day.

Of all their sculptures and castles, Courtney said her favourite was the Shrek sculpture they made about 10 years ago. They went classic with a medieval castle this year.

The finished sandcastle had a seaweed moat and a dragon waiting at the gates. (Ardelle Giza/Facebook)

"We wanted to do a sandcastle to kind of represent the competition that would be on this day," Courtney said.

Ardelle, who is an art teacher, comes up with the concepts for their sculptures and castles before bringing them to the rest of the team for feedback.

"Sometimes it's just an idea, it just hits you in the middle of the night," she said. "It could be February and I'll just wake up from a dream going, 'Yeah, that's a great idea, I should write that down.'"

Ardelle Giza comes up with most of the ideas for Team Giza's sculptures. The train is one of her favourites. (Submitted by Ardelle Giza)

Ardelle said she can't pick one favourite but two sculptures come to mind — a train going through a mountain, and a pirate with a cutlass encrusted in sea glass. Both won first place.

The key to building a good sand sculpture? Wet sand along with lots of trial and error.

Courtney Giza's father, Graeme, used various sizes of buckets to make tall turrets for the sandcastle. (Brooklyn Currie/CBC)

"A couple of years ago my brother made a tower on top of a bridge which we didn't think would work, and it did," Ardelle said. "He was up for the challenge."

As they get older, Ardelle said they sometimes joke about retiring the tradition, but they probably never will.

"We can't really retire because it's so important to being together and being family, so I think we're gonna keep going until we can't," she said.

Team Giza's 2006 entry was one of Ardelle's favourites, a pirate and shipwreck sculpture. Under competition rules you can use anything you find at the beach. (Submitted by Ardelle Giza)