High Waters Force Cancellation Of BeachFest At Mentor Headlands

A sand sculpture of sun and clouds from BeachFest 2016 at Mentor Headlands State Park on Lake Erie
A sand sculpture from BeachFest 2016. There will be no master sand sculptors at Mentor Headlands Beach State Park this year after high waters forced the cancellation of BeachFest 2019. [Tim Hutchison / Shutterstock]
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By Sai Karnati

At Mentor’s Headlands Beach State Park, the water hugs trees and parks in its lots.

Flooding from Lake Erie's high water has prompted the city of Mentor to cancel the popular Headlands BeachFest, scheduled for July 20.

“If you go down there right now, there’s no parking lot. It’s underwater, and [the water] has taken over the beach also,” said Maggie Kuyasa, the recreational coordinator for the City of Mentor. “The fear of it not going down before July 20, which is only three weeks away, is what made us cancel.”

The recent increase in rain has meant record high water levels in Lake Erie, with water flooding into parking lots and the beach where festivites that usually include sand sculptures, music and family activities would take place. And Kuyasa expects even more rain, as well as water from melting snow, to add to the lake’s levels.

“It’s not like it’s rained and everything’s flooded like a house, and you just pump it out, and you’re okay. It’s totally different,” she said. “There’s a great chance that it’s going to stay like that for a while.”

The city has not found an alternate location for the event, but Kuyasa believes moving it would be a disservice to the festival.

“There’s nowhere we can take it. The beach is gone. It’s not like people will come over to our amphitheater. It would do it no justice,” Kuyasa said.

The Headlands BeachFest brings master sand sculptors, DJs, professional kite flyers, and a host of interactive activities to the mile-long natural sand beach, the largest in Ohio. The event has been attracting 10,000 to 15,000 people each year since it started in 2013 with just one sand sculptor.

“One of our coworkers, who has retired since then, always wanted to do something on the beach," Kuyasa said. "And we just ran with it because it was a good event."

In its six-year history, BeachFest has never been cancelled. One year, floodwaters reached two sections of the parking lot, but the festival still went on.

Kuyasa is confident that there will be a BeachFest in 2020.

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