Sugar Sand Festival pays tribute to Prince

By LISA STARK

The world lost musical legend Prince on Thursday, April 21.

The world lost musical legend Prince on Thursday, April 21.

Sand artist Patrick Harsch began working on a sculpture to honor Prince upon hearing of his passing on Thursday.

Sand artist Patrick Harsch began working on a sculpture to honor Prince upon hearing of his passing on Thursday.

Work began immediately on a tribute to Prince at the Sugar Sand Festival in Clearwater.

Work began immediately on a tribute to Prince at the Sugar Sand Festival in Clearwater.

As fans across the country mourned the shocking loss of pop legend star Prince, who died last Thursday at his home in Minneapolis, sculptors at Clearwater’s Pier 60 Sugar Sand Festival quickly went into gear to memorialize the singer in sand.

The city and organizers of the Clearwater Pier 60 Sugar Sand Festival said they were “shocked and saddened” by Prince’s passing. They decided to honor the musical legend in a way only Clearwater could. Sugar Sand sculptors took a break from their festival pieces to build their impromptu sand memorial to Prince, where fans could gather and pay their respects.The final shape of the artwork would evolve over the weekend, culminating on Sunday, April 24, when the festival was scheduled to end.

Clearwater Beach’s 10-day annual Sugar Sand Festival had a musical theme this year, with giant sand sculptures of artists like Bob Marley, Janis Joplin, the Beatles and Lady Gaga.

When the news broke of Prince’s passing on Thursday, sand sculptor Patrick Harsch began working immediately on a sculpture of Prince from his classic Purple Rain years, using Clearwater’s internationally famous sugar sand.

“It was a shock,” said Harsch. “He was young, and we seem to be losing a lot of greats recently. Some folks hadn’t heard, and you have to be the one to break it to them, which is not fun. One guy teared up and walked away.”

Prince was born in Minneapolis in 1958 and wrote his first song at the age of 7. He celebrated his first platinum album, “Prince,” in 1979. He won seven Grammys over the course of his career.  His 1984 album “Purple Rain” sold more than 13 million copies in the U.S. and spent 24 consecutive weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart. The film of the same name won an Academy Award and grossed more than $80 million in the U.S.

Born Prince Rogers Nelson, the flamboyant and influential musician resided in his hometown of Minneapolis his entire life.  Fans began parking outside his home, Paisley Park, shortly after the news of his death, while others took to Twitter to express their grief. Shocked at the untimely death of the beloved musical icon, people held tributes and vigils all across the U.S and lit buildings, bridges and other venues in purple light reminiscent of Prince’s “Purple Rain” fame.

“For the residents of Minneapolis, the loss of Prince is too large to describe,” wrote the city’s mayor, Betsy Hodges. “Prince never left us and we never left him.”

Those who knew Prince recognized his talent and potential at a young age. Owen Husney, the manager who first signed Prince while he was still a minor, said, “At 17 he had the vision and astuteness of a 40-year-old.”

Many celebrities acknowledged Prince’s impact on American musical culture. By the end of his life, Prince had evolved musically through a career that spanned 35 years and produced 39 albums. He was a songwriter, producer and master of numerous instruments, including guitar, keyboards and drums.

By the end of his long career, Prince had  sold more than 100 million albums and, in 2004, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He amazed fans in 2007 with an epic halftime show, performed in pouring rain, that is considered one of the best in Super Bowl history.

Prince was praised by many, but he was especially beloved by his fellow musicians. At the news of his death, Mick Jagger wrote, “Prince’s talent was limitless. He was one of the most unique and talented artists of the last 30 years.”

“Prince was brilliant and larger than life,” said Ellen Degeneres. “What a sad day.”

Said Oprah Winfrey: “The doves really are crying now. RIP, Prince.”

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