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ECCO bringing beach to mountains

BJ Ramer and ECCO will put on "Beach is in Reach" this fall. BJ Ramer and ECCO will put on "Beach is in Reach" this fall.

A downtown aquarium will bring the beach to the mountains next fall during the two-day Art on Main show.


Team ECCO, which uses high school students who are interested in marine science to staff the aquarium, won an $800 grant from the Henderson County Travel & Tourism agency to hold its first sandcastle competition Oct. 6 and 7. Called "the Beach is in Reach," the event is believed to be the first sandcastle building event ever held downtown.

ECCO plans to recruit 10 sandcastle-building teams to erect the artistic structures, said BJ Ramer, the director of Team ECCO. First Citizens Bank has granted use of the brick plaza in front of its bank on North Main Street.

All the building must be done by hand. Sand castle artists will get T-shirts, sunglasses, sand buckets and sand molds. Figuring "best sandcastle" would be hard to judge, the contest will award prizes for most original and most creative and other categories.

"We're keeping it kind of simple for the first year because nobody's ever done it," said Ramer, who founded the organization that also teaches young people to scuba dive and leads trips to explore underwater life. "This is going to be the only big activity on this end of Main Street. We'll have black-shirted 'castle guards' to make sure no one disturbs the castles."

The sand, once it has served its role as art medium, will be recycled for a good cause. Team ECCO will donate it to schools, daycare centers and other organizations willing to pick it up when the festival ends at 4 p.m. Sunday.

Ramer is recruiting businesses to sponsor sandcastle teams. A sponsorship costs $200.

Information: Team ECCO, 828.692.8306.