Jill Harris and Thomas Koet have been waiting to hear just one word while they have spent two weeks with their hands in the sand, shoveling and brushing and chiseling the 12-foot sand sculpture for this year's EQT Pittsburgh Three Rivers Regatta.
"When people come here and they say, 'Wow,' that's what we want to hear," Mr. Koet said.
And as the Melbourne, Fla.-based team of Sandsational Sand Sculpting puts the final details on the 12-foot sculpture today, the end product -- titled "America's Pioneering Spirit" -- has wowed even the seasoned artists.
"You're so focused when you're working on your one little area," Ms. Harris said. "We stand back and look and we say, 'Wow, it's great.'"
As she sculpted the last rocks on the base of the piece, Ms. Harris walked past the figures of Lewis and Clark, along with their guide Sacagawea and even their dog Seaman. Mr. Koet paused from his work and pointed to the boat arriving on shore on one side of the sculpture and a covered wagon on the other.
"You stand in front of it and really soak in the whole spirit of the idea that we've got, everybody moving west, setting foot ashore, homesteading, exploring new lands," Mr. Koet said.
The theme began as a secret, just a 160-ton pile of sand in the middle of Point State Park and a bunch of shovels. As the sculptors worked, the figures of fur traders and tall pine trees emerged just in time for this week's regatta and the Fourth of July.
"People love it," Mr. Koet said. "We've heard many people that like the ships. We've heard the log cabin, the covered wagons, everybody's got their own favorite part about it."
The regatta opens Tuesday and will run for three days, closing July 4. In addition to the sand sculpture, there will be two fireworks displays.
To accommodate regatta events, Commonwealth Place will be closed from 4 to 11 p.m. Wednesday and from noon until midnight July 4. Boats will not be allowed to dock, moor or anchor in certain areas designated by the U.S. Coast Guard.
For pedestrians in the park, the sand sculpture will be a unique exhibit. The team never reproduces its work, so this piece is the first and last time they will create "America's Pioneering Spirit."
"It's always a different shape, a different theme, a different way we tackle it," Ms. Harris said.
This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To subscribe: http://press.post-gazette.com/ Megan Doyle; firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1953. This version corrects the name of Lewis and Clark's dog.