Floridians are known for doing things a bit differently, and Christmas celebrations are no exception. In place of snowy scenes and bundled-up cheer, one Florida city embraces its tropical setting by constructing a 35-foot tree made entirely of sand. The annual West Palm Beach tradition is beloved by locals and, as the world’s only 700-ton sand Christmas tree, has drawn close to 1 million visitors since its 2012 debut.
In South Florida, the holiday season kicks off not with a cold snap but with a November delivery of truckloads of sand from a Miami quarry to the West Palm Beach waterfront where the meticulous by-hand construction of Sandi Tree is an attraction of its own. Team Sandtastic’s process includes pounding sand with water into plywood forms using a tamping machine, then removing the forms as the sculpture emerges from top to bottom. The lighting of the finished sculpture is held in early December.
Each year, Sandi — yes, the tree has a name, not to mention Instagram and Twitter accounts — arrives on the scene with tall tales of how she spent her past 11 months. While Sandi’s theme changes from year to year, visitors can always expect projected light shows set to music every night on the quarter hour through New Year’s Eve. Upon Sandi’s departure, her sand is recycled to different projects around the city.
“After traveling the beaches of the world in the off-season in search of the big wave, she has returned with a dream of cleaner beaches and oceans,” the City of West Palm Beach said in a statement. “This holiday season, Sandi will team up with the Office of Sustainability to bring continued awareness to efforts to protect our natural resources for the West Palm Beach community.”
Reflective of this year’s surfing theme and environmental emphasis, there will be a one-night market next to Sandi selling used paddleboards, kayaks, snorkel gear, life vests, and more to promote reuse of aquatic equipment. Also surrounding Sandi on West Palm Beach’s Great Lawn is SnowieVille, a Christmas-themed wonderland complete with selfie spots, glow-in-the-dark mini golf, and a boutique where you can purchase ornaments and Sandi swag or mail a holiday letter to Sandi.
Those who can’t do without a white Christmas can head over to West Palm Beach’s recently revitalized Rosemary Square, where a nightly “snowfall” — warm weather and all — embodies the magic of the holiday season.