Just past noon Monday afternoon, about 160 tons of sand were deposited at Point State Park.
That sand is the most prominent physical sign that preparation is under way for the 35th EQT Pittsburgh Three Rivers Regatta, a five-day free park festival, opening June 30 and culminating July 4.
Beginning Thursday, members of the Sandsational sculpting crew will mold the sand into a work of art, set to be complete July 1 and on view for the duration of the festivities.
Last year, using only sand and water, the sculptors created an intricate scene of "Classic American Art Icons" -- the largest sand sculpture in state history.
This year's crew has something even more impressive planned, Sandsational sculptor Jill Harris said.
"I don't want to give it away, but this year will focus on the historical elements of the Fourth of July," she said. "We hope people will come out and watch us work. It's really something to watch a sculpting process in action."
At a news conference before the sand dumping, Regatta organizers announced that in addition to the sculpture, the festival will include laser shows, boat races, Pyrotecnico fireworks and, for the first time, an artificial ice-skating rink sponsored by UPMC.
The festival continues to be primarily sponsored by natural gas producer EQT Corp.
"This Regatta is older than I am," quipped Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, who attended the news conference along with entertainment companies and festival sponsors. "But I can't stress enough the importance of this event."
He added that the festival -- which began in 1977 as a small river event in early August -- has brought in more than 15 million spectators since its inception, injecting thousands of tax dollars into Pittsburgh and highlighting the value of the city's rivers.
In keeping with tradition, Pyrotecnico's president and CEO Stephen Vitale said this year's fireworks show, the EQT (Flashes of Freedom) Fireworks Fantasia, will pay tribute to all men and women in uniform.
Booths next to a specially constructed ice-skating rink in Point State Park will highlight employment opportunities for veterans, said UPMC senior vice president Gregory Peaslee, adding that the hospital currently employs roughly 1,100 veterans and hopes to hire more.
The Regatta itself will this year be adding a new boat race, the Superstock P1 Championship Series.
This race, consisting of 25- to 30-foot-long boats, will complement the Regatta's most popular attraction, the Powerboat Superleague North American Championships, which takes off from the Heinz quay.
Amateur racers can register for $100 to participate in the "Anything That Floats" race on July 4, in which teams build their own watercraft and race from Maz to Heinz quay.
The registration fee benefits Pirates Charities, and prizes are awarded for first-, second- and third-place finishers, "Best Decorated" and "Fastest Sinker."
Nikita Lalwani: email@example.com. First Published June 19, 2012 4:00 AM