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KEY WEST (CBSMiami/Florida Keys News Bureau) – Sand sculpting pros from the U.S., Singapore and Canada wowed crowds with intricate, thought-provoking creations at the third annual International Sand Art Competition, held on the Atlantic Ocean beach of Key West’s Casa Marina Resort in the Florida Keys.

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The event ends Sunday afternoon.

Each artist in the Thanksgiving weekend challenge received more than 15,000 pounds of sand — and were required to create their sculptures from only sand and water, using a few simple hand tools like trowels and brushes.

“A lot of these artists are just world-class phenomenal, and they’ve taken it from your everyday sand castle to ephemeral art — real, full-on modern art that could be in a gallery anywhere,” said competitor Rusty Croft, who has been carving sand professionally for 19 years.

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Sculptures ranged from Morgan Rudluff’s shattered female figure and external heart, a commentary on heartbreak and healing, to Croft’s “Out to Lunch,” contrasting early 20th-century American steel workers’ lunch breaks and contemporary people’s preoccupation with their cell phones instead of living in the moment.

Croft said he enjoyed sand as a medium for his sculpture because of the near-universal connection it creates with viewers.

“Everybody has played in sand at some point in their life, so it’s kind of in us all as an artistic medium,” he said.

Events run through Sunday, when aspiring artists can test their skills in an amateur sand-sculpting contest — while surrounded and inspired by the professionals’ creations.

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