City takes extra precautions to preserve 5th annual Sandi Christmas Tree

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Hundreds looked forward to the lighting of the 35-foot, 600 ton Sandi Christmas tree along the West Palm Beach waterfront.

But rain chances on Thursday night threatened to damper the ceremony and celebration at Flagler Park.

Even if the weather doesn't cooperate, the people responsible for the annual event believe they've made Sandi strong enough to withstand any rain.

Sandi is the world's only large holiday tree sculpted entirely from sand.

"Tonight, she makes her debut and she is just as big and bad and sassy as ever," said Mary Pinak, community events manager for the city of West Palm Beach.

But this year, the city took extra steps to make sure they didn't have a repeat of last year, when too much rain damaged the sand sculpture.

"We had some really unprecedented rains. Pretty much four straight days of torrential downpour," said Pinak.

West Palm Beach resident Anne Cowan remembers last year's wet Christmas season.

"I hadn't seen Sandi before so when I came to see it, it had already rained, I was disappointed. it kind of caved in on one side," she said.

Pinak said because workers started with soggy sand last year, that made it difficult for the tree to stay put. Sculptors had to come in and re-sculpt parts of the sand structure.

But this year, the city took extra measures to preserve Sandi's shape. They ensured that the sand -- which comes from a quarry in Miami -- was allowed to dry out for several days before sculpting with it.

"This year, we brought the sculptors in a week early. So this sculpture has been done for about a week," she said. "The longer it stays out in the sun, the more it bakes."

And the stronger it holds together. The professional sand sculptors, who are based in Sarasota, even made a special concoction to further protect Sandi tree.

"At the very end, they take a spritzer of some type of elmer's glue and water and they just spritz it, to give it a finish," Pinak said.

We also asked about a possible tent as an option to protect Sandi, but city officials are not sure if a big enough tent is even feasible. Pinak believes the tree is tough enough to stay big and beautiful this Christmas season.

"I think this year we had some really innovative ways to meet the challenges from last year, and we'll continue to look at -- as we progress through the years -- how it worked out," she said.

Sandi tree alone cost $70,000 to make. That money comes from the city's waterfront budget.

There's also 24-7 security by a private security company to make sure no one tries to jump over the protective fence and damage the tree.

Besides Sandi tree, there are four other giant sand sculptures set up throughout the park.

Sandi Tree will be set up for viewing until January 1. There are several events planned around Sandi this year. Click here to plan ahead.

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