John Gowdy makes a living doing what children spend hours doing every summer on the beach: making sandcastles.

The Atlantic City native uses the whole world for his sandbox as he travels the planet showing sand is as much an artistic medium as paint.

Gowdy, a professional sand sculptor since 1987, discovered his profession when he started taking his children to the Albany Avenue beach. He began digging tidal pools and accidentally piled sand while digging them. He started picking up shells and popsickle sticks to carve castles, and his kids helped. "The Rowdy Gowdys" competed in local amateur contests, and he won his first contest at the former Golden Nugget casino in Atlantic City.

Gowdy, who said some of his creations take as long as four days and more than 50 man hours to complete,was invited to join sand professionals in Florida, learned the trade and eventually formed his own company, Sand Sculptures by John Gowdy & Co.

Sand also has taken him to Italy. He placed first at an international sand contest there, and after repeatedly returning for the contest, he decided to settle in Castelfranco after retiring from the Atlantic City Fire Department.

He recently won the "People's Choice Award" at the World Championship Sand Sculpture Competition in Washington, D.C., with a teammate for "Spiritual Visions," which featured an American Indian chief smoking a peace pipe and visions of wolves in the swirling smoke. He followed that with a first-place people's choice at the North American Sand Sculpture Championship in Virginia for "Love Never Grows Old," which featured an old couple watching "I Love Lucy" with carvings of the couple at younger points in their lives.

His goal is to bring the World Championship of Sand Sculpture to Atlantic City in 2011, and said the organizers of the event are receptive to the idea.

"Sand modelers worked the crowds on the Atlantic City Boardwalk from 1897 to 1944," Gowdy said. "I have proposed to bring these artists back to Atlantic City. (It) attracts the public from 2 to 102. What better family event could possibly be brought to Atlantic City?"

Short Stories

Ocean City can consider its bay views a lot cleaner thanks to its Environmental Commission. Bill Stuempfig and Pete Ault organized two bay cleanups this fall on behalf of the commission. Between sessions held Sept. 26 and Oct. 10, volunteers removed more than 20 bags of recyclables and about two truckloads of trash. "Nobody likes to look at trash," Ault says, "and there are all sorts of other consequences of leaving trash out in the environment. (Removing) it makes people happy and it keeps the community clean."

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