No Light Rail in Virginia Beach message removed from sculpture

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – More than 30 supporters of the No Light Rail in Virginia Beach group spend more than four hours to build their sand sculpture for the Neptune Festival.

“I’m so sore you wouldn’t believe it. We had to lug the water up, 300 feet, it’s just water and sand, I’m tired,” says the sculpture’s designer Reid Greenmun.

Greenmun worked on Saturday to construct the sculpture for the festival’s amateur competition. He says the group wanted to promote their stance at the festival to attract more attention to the issue; which is on the November ballot for the city.

Greenmun says he was shocked to find out what happened to the piece hours after it was completed.

“Around 11, I get a call someone had come down and ruined it. A bunch of us got up at the crack of dawn and fixed it. It’s not as pretty but it gets the message through,” he says.

Greenmun says he was surprised to find out who was responsible for the damage.

“I’m kind of shocked. I’ve been involved with sand castles for 18 years and besides, what’s wrong with free speech?” he says.

Becky Bump with the Neptune Festival says part of the display was taken down by a staff member.

“Unfortunately last night, someone took it upon themselves to remove the “No Light Rail” piece from the sculpture,” Bump says.

Bump says the staff member removed the message to avoid the appearance of bias and would have removed the sign if it was in support of the light rail.

“The festival is a very a-political organization. We’re a community celebration and it’s always been our policy to not be political,” she says.

Bump says the festival strives to be neutral including the exclusion of politicians running for office from participating in the parade and campaigning at the event. She says that while the event tries to remain balanced, there are no rules in the sand sculpting competition regarding political statements.

The No Light Rail in Virginia Beach volunteers were able to come back and re-decorate the damaged display. Group members say despite the damage that was done to their sculpture, it actually helped them engage with more visitors at the beach.

“I think they attempted to squelch the message,which kind of backfired on them. The picture we put up on Facebook yesterday had astronomical numbers of people liking it, sharing it, giving positive comments, and positive feedback,” Jimmy Frost, the group’s spokesperson, said.

Bump says due to the incident, the festival may have to revise current rules to prevent issues from happening in the future.