NORTH ADAMS -- Filling a city street with 250,000 pounds of sand to create an ‘urban art beach' isn't something that happens often.
Unless of course, you happen to be in North Adams, where artist Eric Rudd is preparing to host the 15th annual Eagle Street Beach party from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m., on Friday.
The beach party will once again be followed by an adult Mexican fiesta-themed party, from 7 to 10 p.m.
"It's hard to believe we've been doing this for 15 years," Rudd said Wednesday. "It doesn't seem like it's been that long. It's become a North Adams institution."
North Adams Director of Tourism Veronica Bosley said the beach party not only provides an afternoon of fun for local families, but the event has become well-known enough to draw visitors to the city.
"I've met people, who stumbled upon it one year or had heard about it, and now plan their vacations to be here for it," she said. "It's a unique event. It's a really big draw for the local community. The addition of the Mexican Fiesta adds another element. It's a big draw for a different crowd -- interns and college students here for the summer and young professionals."
Rudd first proposed the beach party in 1999 as a way to make contemporary art more accessible to local residents.
"I was bridging the gap between the ‘highfalutin' art at Mass MoCA and a kids' beach party, where abstract sand art sculptures are being made," he said. "There's not much difference between what's going on in the sand and the art in the museum two blocks away -- there's a common experience in the process. I find it to be a great common denominator between fine art and the community. Who knows, one of the children playing in the sand now could become one of the great sculptors of the future."
Rudd added, "When I proposed it to [former] Mayor John Barrett III, he asked if I had done something like this before. I said I had, but I had really never done anything like it before. If someone else had done it, I wouldn't have. For me, there's no fun in doing something unless it's new and unusual. I keep doing it for many reasons. For some children, this is the only beach experience they have. It's their Coney Island moment."
Four years ago, the event was expanded by Mayor Richard J. Alcombright and City Councilor Keith Bona to include the Mexican Fiesta, Rudd said. This year, Lita Williams, a 2002 Drury High School graduate who recently returned from Nashville, will provide the entertainment during the fiesta. Coronas and margaritas will be offered for sale by Desperado's. A valid ID will be needed to purchase alcohol, which may only be consumed on the sand. Both events are smoke-free.
"We receive a lot of support from the community, with a lot of people working behind the scenes," Rudd said. "Mildred Elley has donated 250 pails and shovels. Adams Community Bank is donating fans and sunglasses. We'll have prizes for everyone. We have gift certificates from Eagle Street merchants for the sand sculpture contest and 250 SteepleCats tickets to hand out to the kids."
The sand, which is donated by Specialty Minerals, will arrive on Eagle Street at 1:30 p.m., on Friday.
"We still need volunteers to help spread the sand," he said. "It's delivered by the city, but the trucks and city workers can only do so much. We need to spread it by hand."
The only thing hanging in the balance is the weather.
"I don't know what to think," Rudd said. "One website says it will rain. Another says it will be clear and sunny. We'll make a decision on Friday. When your putting down 250,000 pounds of sand, you need to be sure it's not going to rain."
A rain date of Friday, July 19 has been set in the case of inclement weather.
To reach Jennifer Huberdeau, email