Photo by Bryce France

A new addition to the highly anticipated fourth season of the Netflix hit series Stranger Things has close ties to both Texas and San Antonio. Born in Honolulu, Hawaii, actress Regina Ting Chen grew up in San Antonio and studied at the University of Texas at Austin.

Now residing in Atlanta, Georgia, Chen was a 2016 finalist for CBS's Diversity Drama Initiative Program. She has been featured in the popular USA crime drama Queen of the South, Marvel's The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and HBO's Emmy-winning limited series Watchmen. In the new season of Stranger Things, debuting Friday, May 27, Chen plays a guidance counselor at Hawkins High.

CultureMap connected with Chen for a few questions about her career so far, and about what fans can expect from the next season of Stranger Things.

CultureMap: So you were born in Honolulu, Hawaii. What brought you to Texas originally?
Regina Ting Chen: My dad’s business was not doing well and we had to close shop. We all relocated to San Antonio where my aunt was working and said that it’s a much more affordable place with great education opportunities.

CM: What inspired you to study at the University of Texas at Austin?
RTC: My aunt is a pharmacy professor at UT! She gave me the idea from the get-go, and I wanted to stay close to home as I am extremely close to family.

CM: What are some of your favorite memories of Austin or UT from that time?
RTC: College was difficult for me, I’m not great at test-taking haha! But it taught me so much about discipline, how to stay organized, and work my butt off. I also worked full-time as a hostess and makeup artist in order to pay my way through college as I had no help. Austin always had the best food options! But more importantly, Austin is such a great place to find all kinds of creative outlets. That’s the only way I got to explore doing different things like makeup and acting to find out what I would like to do, how to network, and just grow as a human! Austin is beautiful and will always be dear to me. It was hard leaving the city.

CM: You earned your degree in Spanish and business. How did you first get into acting?
RTC: When I was a kid, I wasn’t allowed to take drama classes so I would just put on “shows” for my family during the holidays. I would come up with different acts, have my family members partake, build a set, all of it! So I always had the spirit in me. My grandma, being an immigrant, was afraid to venture out much. So I always enjoyed helping her live vicariously through my eyes by reenacting my days, sometimes embellishing basic things as long as it made her smile and laugh. She was my rock. She’s gone now, sadly, but I have all those memories I re-enacted for her and created with her to last me my whole lifetime.

As an adult, I was actually scouted by a local photographer who suggested that I try modeling. It almost sounds like a story that would end with me in trouble. I then did some local photo shoots, and, eventually, it led me to sign with Kim Dawson Agency in Dallas. They suggested acting classes for me and thus began my Meisner journey with Austin Meisner coach Laurel Vouvray.

CM: When did you decide to take the plunge and make it your full-time career?
RTC: In 2016, I had decided I was going to just go full-time corporate and take a break from acting for a few years, as I was burned out and not getting opportunities. Three months later, I realized I was miserable without the life of storytelling in any capacity. That’s when I realized acting is for the rest of my life. And everything else I did from that point forward was done to support that realization.

CM: Can you tell us more about the CBS Diversity Drama Initiative Program?
RTC: Yes! So CBS had a nationwide initiative for diverse talent to submit tapes as an audition for the program. They received over 10,000 tapes! The next step was callbacks, which I did in Austin, and finally, they selected 12 finalists to be flown out to LA for a week-long, paid-for intensive. I learned so much on that trip. I have never been on a real big-budget set before in my life, nor met other actors in different markets across the nation. It truly opened my eyes to see how big that world can really be.

CM: What have been some of your favorite roles until now?
RTC: I loved playing a money laundering banker on Queen of the South. I am such a person of honor that it was fun to play someone who was so deceiving. Plus, working with Alice Braga was amazing! I also enjoyed playing the female lead in a local indie feature (Lion Killer) shot in Houston back in 2018, because the creators gave me a chance to show my talent and believed that I could carry the film before I even knew I could. And ultimately, my role in Stranger Things is by far my favorite, because my character Ms. Kelly is truly me — caring, kind, and quirky. I cannot wait for the world to meet her! I’m also just so proud to represent the Asian community every chance I get.

CM: How did the role in Stranger Things come about?
RTC: Just like any other show, I received an audition from my agent for the role. The script (sides) were different names so that we wouldn’t know who was involved in it. It was great, actually, because that allowed me to just bring myself authentically to the character of how I would be in that world.

CM: Were you already a fan of the show before you signed on for Season 4?
RTC: Yes!!! I’m a big sci-fi nerd and I loved the show prior to even getting the audition. So you KNOW how stoked I was to have gotten a chance to read for the show. It’s so rare!

CM: Can you tell us anything particularly exciting to look forward to in this next season?
RTC: The world is darker and scarier than it ever has been before. It’s impossible. Hang on tight! I’m right there with you because I’m scared of the dark and everything spooky!

Photo courtesy of Kuper Sotheby's International Realty

The Dominion: San Antonio's premier lifestyle community

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There are so many great places to live in San Antonio that it helps to have an expert on your side. The Neighborhood Guide presented by Kuper Sotheby's International Realty gives you insider access from the agents who live and work there, providing in-the-know info about your possible new community.


The Dominion has always intrigued real estate agent Matthew Resnick — he lived there himself for more than eight years, and was a HOA board member, and has family still in the neighborhood. His office has been located in The Dominion for the past 15 years.

"I've made it my passion to become the expert for people buying and selling in The Dominion and its surrounding areas," Resnick says. "It's a masterplanned community where you can live, work, and play, with golf courses, parks, ponds, and trails."

Resnick — who is also a certified expert in diamonds and jewelry, thanks to growing up with his father's business, Reznikov's Fine Jewelry — calls The Dominion San Antonio's premier lifestyle community.

His reasons? Here are a few more of his personal favorites about life in the area:

Where to eat & drink
No matter what you're craving, you'll be satisfied. Resnick recommends Signature, Piatti, Rudy's BBQ, and Bar 301.

Where to play
"I enjoy spending time with my family hiking at Friedrich Park," he says. "I also really enjoy playing a round of golf or having a tennis match with my kids at the Dominion Country Club and La Cantera Resort & Spa."

What to see
TopGolf is another way to practice your swing, or more adventurous souls can check out Six Flags Fiesta Texas, horseback riding at Rose Palace, and iFly indoor skydiving.

Less heart-pounding but still enjoyable is retail therapy at The Shops at La Cantera or a visit to Cascade Caverns and the Cave Without a Name.

Where to live
"Behind the gates in The Dominion you have many distinctive neighborhoods that each have their own style, appeal, and architecture," Resnick says. "You will find contemporary and modern to traditional and Colonial architecture in all sizes, from garden homes to large acreage lots with mansion/estate homes."

A recent large sale of Resnick's definitely falls into the latter category: 5 Crescent Bluff, a beauty of over 7,000 square feet built by the award-winning Roberto Kenigstein of Image Homes.

"Matthew really cares, as though he's making the purchase himself," says his client. "Having moved a handful of times, I have experienced a variety of Realtors as both a buyer and a seller. Matthew and his team are exceptional."


Matthew Resnick works and plays in The Dominion. For more information on buying and selling a home in the area, click here, email matthew.resnick@kupersir.com, or call 210-849-8837.

Photo courtesy of Kuper Sotheby's International Realty

Oak Park: Namesake trees surround rapidly rising property values

Your Expert Guide

There are so many great places to live in San Antonio that it helps to have an expert on your side. The Neighborhood Guide presented by Kuper Sotheby's International Realty gives you insider access from the agents who live and work there, providing in-the-know info about your possible new community.


You know you're making the right choice in a neighborhood when even your Realtor has invested there.

Kuper Sotheby's International Realty agent Megan Perez has lived in Oak Park for the past four years, drawn by the tree-lined streets, family friendly community, convenient location — 281, 410, the airport, and Alamo Heights are all nearby — and collection of midcentury modern homes that are ripe for loving renovations.

"The values here have substantially increased over the years," says Perez. "Plus Oak Park pays the Bexar County property tax rate, not the Alamo Heights property tax rate, making a home here an even smarter investment."

She has invested in her personal home, completing a significant interior renovation. Perez is also an owner in a local boutique development business called MP2 Urban Development, where her expertise is in residential new construction and historic renovations in the urban core.

Her background and team of contractors are especially valuable when her clients are preparing their micentury-era Oak Park homes for the market.

She offered up a few more of her personal favorites about life in Oak Park. Here's her guide to the area:

Where to eat & drink
You won't go hungry in Oak Park. Some of Perez's favorites include Theory Coffee, Revolucion Coffee+ Juice, Twin Sisters Bakery & Cafe, Boss Bagel, and Naco Mexican Eatery for breakfast, La Fonda Alamo Heights for the Fajitas, and The Barn Door for Texas-style steaks and home cooking.

Head to Mama's Cafe for Texas-style comfort food, Bangkok 54 for Thai cuisine, and Soluna for the chispas and ribeye tacos.

Where to play
"I love that the Greenway Trail connects Oak Park to other parts of the city," Perez says.

Haskin Park, Northridge Park, Northwood Park, and Quarry Golf Course all also offer ways to get in touch with nature.

What to see
"Oak Park is home to one of the most significant caves in Bexar County, the Robber Baron Cave," she says.

The McNay Art Museum is also a wonderful way to spend an afternoon.

Where to live
The majority of the homes were built between 1955 and the 1980s, and are predominantly ranch-style and midcentury modern.

"There is a variation of lot sizes, with several large lots still intact," says Perez. "100-plus-year-old oak trees shade the streets and yards, and the neighborhood is easy to navigate in and out of."

Oak Park is a very walkable and friendly neighborhood, and it's not unusual to see kids and pets out playing, people walking and jogging, and neighbors hanging out in their front and backyards.

Among Perez's most significant recent sales are 258 Cave Lane and 111 Oakhurst Place.


Megan Perez lives, works, and plays in Oak Park. For more information on buying and selling a home in the area, click here, email megan.perez@kupersir.com, or call 210-748-3616.

Agent Megan Perez

Realtor Megan Perez
Photo courtesy of Kuper Sotheby's International Realty

Agent Megan Perez.

Photo by Onward Group

Southtown: San Antonio's artsy, historical enclave

Your Expert Guide

There are so many great places to live in San Antonio that it helps to have an expert on your side. The Neighborhood Guide presented by Kuper Sotheby's International Realty gives you insider access from the agents who live and work there, providing in-the-know info about your possible new community.


"Southtown is a neighborhood in the truest sense," says real estate agent Debra Maltz, "residents with diverse backgrounds who care deeply about their community, both its people and its structures, who strive to maintain balance in order to assure that future generations have the same quality of life."

The artsy neighborhood of Southtown is where Maltz keeps her office, and it's an area that she's been happily introducing clients to for the past decade.

"The vibe of Southtown is well appreciated among San Antonio," she says. "It is probably the most walkable neighborhood in the city, with fabulous restaurants, interesting shops, Blue Star Arts complex, the San Antonio River, the So Flo HEB, and gorgeous Victorian homes, all only a short walk to downtown."

Maltz offered up a few more of her personal favorites about life in Southtown. Here's her guide to the area:

Where to eat & drink
"There are too many to pinpoint, but I love Cascabel, a small Mexican cafe across from Bonham Elementary — delicious!" she says.

Liberty Bar, Upscale, Bar Loretta, Little Em's, Pharm Table, Bliss, and The Good Kind also make the list, though Maltz points out that new favorites seem to always be appearing.

Where to play
Obviously Hemisfair Park and the San Antonio River hike and bike path, which goes all the way to the Missions, are oft-visited spots, as is Yanaguana Park and just strolling down King William Street.

What to see
Though the Edward Steves Homestead Museum is currently closed, you can still visit Villa Finale and the Blue Star Arts Complex for your doses of culture and history.

Where to live
"Southtown has wonderful historic homes, many of them well over 100 years old, as well as newer, more modern ones," Maltz says. "Many of the older homes are filled with history, and when you decide to live in a home filled with history you are agreeing to be a steward of the home."

One such homes is a recent listing of Maltz's: 129 Crofton Ave., a one-of-a-kind artisanal King William home.

This was the lifetime home — and project for almost 40 years — of noted local designers and craftsmen Isaac and Judith Maxwell. It has since been thoughtfully updated by the current owners and features gorgeous long-leaf pine floors and ceilings and meticulous woodworking, joinery, and craftsmanship. Original coal-burning faux fireplaces with gorgeous brick can be found throughout. The Maxwells' original punched metal light fixtures and chandeliers can still be found throughout, along with many hidden cabinets and hiding places.

The kitchen has a beautiful island with those same original punched metal cabinet doors, but has also been updated with Corian counters, a built-in refrigerator, a downdraft gas range, farm sink, and a charming banquette overlooking the back deck. Wrap-around porches decorate both the first and second floor, while the third-floor loft makes an ideal guest room, office, or reading room.

A second, 400-square-foot structure in the rear has two floors, each with a living area, full bath, and private entrance. Follow the brick path that winds through the yard down to the San Antonio River.

A stunning recent sale is 331 Adams St., a five-bedroom historic treasure built in 1893.

Known as the Haarmann/Goethe House, it's recognizable by the arched brick facade and multiple porches, but also hides a 900-square-foot apartment, dog run, pool, and outdoor kitchen out back.


Debra Maltz works and plays in Southtown. For more information on buying and selling a home in the area, click here, email debra.maltz@kupersir.com, or call 210-639-3272.

Realtor Debra Maltz

Photo by Onward Group

Agent Debra Maltz.

Photo courtesy of Kuper Sotheby's International Realty

Vintage Oaks + Gruene: Go on vacation without ever leaving home

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There are so many great places to live in San Antonio and its surrounding areas that it helps to have an expert on your side. The Neighborhood Guide presented by Kuper Sotheby's International Realty gives you insider access from the agents who live and work there, providing in-the-know info about your possible new community.


Real estate agent Ginger Browning spent most of her life in the New Braunfels area — even a short move out of state couldn't keep her away from Central Texas.

"While I loved getting to visit different parts of the country, learn different cultures, and meet different people, I got back home as soon as I could," she says. "The graciousness and hospitality of people here are beyond compare."

Having worked in the area, which includes the neighborhoods Vintage Oaks and Gruene, for more than a decade, Browning notes that the location is unbeatable: convenient to everything, but not in the hustle and bustle of the big city.

"The area has so much to offer: the relaxing feel, beautiful rock and stucco homes, expansive yards, Hill Country views and so much more," Browning says. "With the music scene in Gruene and its wonderful restaurants, you do not have to go far to have a good time."

The amenities aren't to be overlooked, either. "Gruene has the river activities, food, shopping, and night life while Vintage Oaks has hidden parks and walking trails, but the best is the amazing pool with the lazy river," she adds. "It is a great way to pass those long, hot summer days."

Browning, who was a Top 10 agent for Kuper Sotheby's International Realty in 2021 and a member of the President's Circle, has also been recognized as a Platinum Top 50 Realtor several years running.

What you might not expect, though, are her hobbies: motorcycles and beekeeping. "We have several hives on our property that we care for. It is such a great experience to watch and learn how they work," she says. "The honey is not bad either."

Browning offered up a few more of her personal favorites about life in Vintage Oaks and Gruene. Here's her guide to the area:

Where to eat & drink
There are several icons of the area that Browning visits often, like Gruene River Grill, Krause's Biergarten and Cafe (which was originally built in 1938), Muck & Fuss for craft beer and burgers, and Marina's for breakfast tacos.

Where to play
It's all about the water here, from Schlitterbahn to Canyon Lake to a day lazily tubing down the river. Landa Park is where you'll find the headwaters of Comal Springs, plus charming paddle boats and 50 acres of greenspace.

What to see
See live music at Freiheit Country Store or Gruene Hall, catch a classic or new-release movie at Stars and Stripes Drive-In, or participate in any of the many seasonal festivals.

A visit to the Sophienburg Museum and Archives offers insight into the area's German heritage, while a stroll across the Faust Street Bridge feels like stepping back in time.

And, of course, you're not in Texas unless you stop at Buc-ee's and marvel at all its goods for sale.

Where to live
Many properties here have beautiful views and spacious grounds, and most are custom-built or semi-custom like 1021 Gruene Springs, a record-breaking sale of Browning's in New Braunfels that secured the highest price per square foot that has ever sold in the neighborhood.

Other significant sales of hers in the area include 1090 Provence Pl., 1757 Antigua Cove, and 1017 Elm Creek.

Another perk that Browning points out is the area's generally low tax rate and no city taxes in some of the more popular neighborhoods, including Vintage Oaks

"While it was not our first time selling a home, we had never before encountered such exceptional service," says one of Browning's clients. "From the first day that we worked with Ginger, we were struck by her incredible enthusiasm, heartfelt sincerity, astounding industry knowledge, client advocacy, dedication, and personal attention."

The client also pointed out that Ginger went out of her way to ensure that selling their home did not interfere with their busy work schedules.

"Words cannot describe how reassuring it is to know that not only do you have an agent who is willing to go the extra mile, but will make your life as stress-free as possible throughout the home searching and buying process. We also connected with Ginger's warm personality and sense of humor from the start, and now consider her not just our Realtor but our lifelong friend.""


Ginger Browning works and plays in Vintage Oaks and Gruene. For more information on buying and selling a home in the area, click here, email ginger.browning@kupersir.com or call 830-837-1891.

Agent Ginger Browning

Realtor Ginger Browning

Photo by Onward Group

Agent Ginger Browning.

Photo courtesy of Kuper Sotheby's International Realty

Olmos Park: The perfect place to build a lifetime of memories

Your Expert Guide

There are so many great places to live in San Antonio that it helps to have an expert on your side. The Neighborhood Guide presented by Kuper Sotheby's International Realty gives you insider access from the agents who live and work there, providing in-the-know info about your possible new community.


The true test of a neighborhood is when a person grows up there, and then chooses to return in adulthood.

That's what real estate agent Mary Carter did with Olmos Park, which she has called home for the past 20 years.

"I know it so well, and I met my lifelong best friends there as a child," Carter says. "I had many children my age to play with, and we would ride bikes, have lemonade stands, and sell Girl Scout cookies. It was a wonderful place to grow up."

Today, she praises the area's convenience, being only minutes from Highways I10 and 281 and a very quick jaunt to downtown.

"If I didn't have to get around town for work, I could easily live here without a car," she says. "There are so many conveniences right at my doorstep."

Carter offered up a few more of her personal favorites about life in Olmos Park. Here's her guide to the area:

Where to eat & drink
Panchito's Mexican Restaurant is "a favorite spot with all San Antonio," Carter says — and that's extra impressive, considering the city's rich Tex-Mex offerings.

Where to play
Olmos Basin is a popular spot for its sports fields, as are the many walking trails that surround the neighborhood and its dog park.

What to see
Olmos Park is very close to Landa Library, plus just minutes from all the entertainment, history, and cultural spots that downtown San Antonio has to offer.

Where to live
"Olmos Park was one of the first major elite communities built after WWI," Carter says. "A man named Thorman bought the land to develop and was instrumental in making sure it would be its own township and part of the newly developed Alamo Heights Schools District."

The style of homes he built were two-story native rock or brick with interior features like high ceiling and arches between formal areas.

"In the middle of the Olmos Park is a large hill where you can see to downtown and back, and on those lots Thorman built true mansions," she says. "Much later, another man came along to build more contemporary-style homes, only one story and made from brick. You still have a mixture of the two, though many of the contemporary homes have either been torn down or vastly expanded."

Carter recalls that her very first sale was 625 Contour Dr. in 1977, though sadly it was just torn down to become part of a lot for the next-door neighbors. More recently, she has sold 202 Primera, 210 E. Mandalay, and "a great house on Park Lane."


Mary Carter lives, works, and plays in Olmos Park. For more information on buying and selling a home in the area, click here, email mary.carter@kupersir.com, or call 210-387-4663.

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Contemporary Irish pub sprouts up in new St. Paul's Square home


One of San Antonio’s most storied bars is gearing up for its next chapter. After a brief hiatus, Southtown hot spot Francis Bogside has reopened in St. Paul Square, along with a sister concept — Anne’s.

The bar first opened in 2015 in conjunction with the fine dining eatery Brigid. The pair had barely been in business for a year before an early morning fire ravaged their shared space in 2016. In 2017, the bar reopened on South St. Mary’s Street sans Brigid, becoming one of Alamo City’s favorite haunts.

In July 2022, owner Steve Mahoney announced another change. Francis Bogside was moving out of its longtime home and into a new location. Eventually, internet sleuths figured out that spot would be 1170 E Commerce St #100 in St. Paul’s Square, the former home of Smoke BBQ.

Though in a new location, the basic DNA of the bar is still intact, with a similar layout featuring a large central bar and a jumble of artwork on the walls. The space, however, is a more contemporary interpretation of an Irish pub with a bold mix of upholstery, up-to-date wallcoverings, and mosaic tiles, all enlivening the mostly brick space.

Though Bogside’s signature cocktails have often strayed from theme, a release promised a return to form with sippers like Paddy’s Irish whiskey-based Irish Maid and low ABV Jammy Lass. As usual, the specialty drinks will be supplemented by various classics, including daiquiris and negronis.

Currently, the bar has a limited food menu of pub grub, like focaccia pizza, wings, and loaded potato skins. A more fully developed menu will be rolled out as it prepares for a grand opening later in June.

The media alert did not offer many details about Anne’s, a wine bar now open in the adjoining space, but did tease at an international bottle list. The concept will also have a dedicated food menu, although no details were shared.

Currently in its soft opening phase, Francis Bogside welcomes guests 4 pm-2 am Tuesday through Sunday. Anne’s operates Wednesday through Sunday with the same opening hours.

Francis Bogside San Antonio

Photo by TXTroublemaker

A large central bar is the focal point.

5 tips to build stunning sand sculptures from 2023 Texas SandFest winners

Fun at the beach

As summer fast approaches, sandy vacations to coastal destinations are on the horizon for many travelers. For those with kids in tow, sandcastle-making might top the list of beach trip must-dos.

But “playing” in the sand isn’t just an activity for children, as proven by the 22 professional sand sculptors from around the world who recently competed in the 26th annual Texas SandFest, held in Port Aransas in April. The internationally recognized event, started by Port A locals in 1997, is the largest native-sand sculptor competition in the nation; nearly 70,000 people attended this year.

Competition entries featured everything from mermaids to the Grim Reaper, all intricately carved, brushed, and chiseled from sand, ocean water, and perhaps a little diluted spray glue that sculptors say helps maintain detail. The competitors work on their masterpieces during the event, allowing spectators to witness their progress from start to finish.

“I do around five international sand sculpting competitions per year. It’s always a great challenge to compete a high level,” says Benoit Dutherage, a competitive sculptor from France who also creates snow sculptures in the French Alps during the winter.

Dutherage took first place in the Duo Masters category, along with his sand sculpting partner Sue McGrew, for their work called “Wish You Were Here.” Comprised of two loving faces (one mystically cut in half), the sculpture was a tribute to Pink Floyd.

“We like to reflect human emotions in our sculptures,” he says. “It is never easy to pick an idea among the thousands of ideas we have.”

Florida resident Thomas Koet, whose sculpture called “The Prospector” won first place in the People’s Choice category, intended to create something with horses and a cowboy as an homage to Mustang Island, where the competition took place. High tides just before the event thwarted his plans.

“The high tide washed away so much of the sand, I had only enough left for a mule or a foal,” he says. “So I decided to make an old prospector with a mule.”

Thinking out of the box when it comes to carving sand is just one of several suggestions Koet has for recreational sand sculptors. (“Who says it has to be a castle?” he says.) He and other winners from the 2023 Texas SandFest say they are always happy to see novices get creative.

Here are five of the pros' top tips for producing a beachfront masterpiece.

1. Think beyond the standard sandcastle
“Design and sculpt outside of your comfort zone,” says Abe Waterman, a sculptor from Prince Edward Island, Canada, who took first place in the Solo Masters division with his sculpture, “Sleeps with Angels.” The mega sculpture featured four angels at four corners holding a blanket carrying a sleeping woman. “While this may not lead to the best sculpture results, one will improve faster by doing this.”

Waterman noted that there are different types of sand depending on location. Some are better suited for detailed work while others work well for verticality. “But something can always be sculpted regardless of the sand quality, the design just may need to be altered,” he says.

Koet recommends picking something that will fit your attention span. “You can make anything you want,” he says. “You can make a cat, a shark, a monster truck, your high school mascot, a sneaker, or a shark eating an ice cream cone.”

2. Use the right tools
Forgo the cheap tourist shop plastic bucket and shovel set. “You definitely need proper tools to get a good result: A solid shovel, a few trowels – not too big – and a wall painting brush to clean your sculpture,” says Dutherage. “You’ll also need buckets.”

Think big painter’s buckets, he says, used to make what’s essentially “sand mud” consisting of lots of water and sand. Which leads to the next tip ...

3. Create a form mold
Consider this the secret to head-turning sand sculptures. Whether it’s a 10-foot-tall wooden box with sides that come off, or a plastic bucket with the bottom cut out, a “form mold” is an open-top vessel used to hold packed sand and water to create a carve-able structure.

“It’s a very useful thing to have in order to get a solid block, and to go high,” says Dutherage. “If you are a handyman, you can build your own forms. But a quick solution is to take a bucket, no matter what size, and cut out the bottom. Then put that bucket upside down on the sand. Add a few inches of sand, some water, mix with your trowel and compact that layer. Repeat until the bucket is full. Then gently pull the bucket up and surprise! You will get a nice block of sand ready for a sandcastle full of windows, arches, and gates.”

The compacted layers of sand and water almost act as cement, creating a sturdy base for carving. Dutherage says folks can easily repeat the form mold process to create multiple bases, either side by side or stacked.

4. Use plenty of water, for the sculpture and yourself
Benoit recommends adding even more water during the sculpting process.

“Bring a plant sprayer,” he says. “Sand needs to be wet to be sculptable.”

Even rain during sand sculpture building isn’t necessarily a bad thing. “One of the biggest misconceptions is that rain will destroy a sand sculpture,” says Waterman. “While this is possible, most often it just textures the surface.”

Water is also essential for the sculptor, as staying hydrated is key during the process, Waterman adds.

Texas SandFest

Texas SandFest

"The Prospector" took first place in the 2023 Texas SandFest People's Choice category

5. Practice, Practice, Practice
“The biggest misconception is that I do anything different than anybody who does it only for the first time,” says Koet, who’s been sculpting sand for 25 years. “Sure, I bring more and bigger tools and I spend much more time shoveling the sand high and mixing it with water. But there is no magic other than years of practice.”

Waterman, who admits sand sculpting has taken over his life, competes in up to 10 contests a year and also creates sculptures for exhibits and corporate commissions.

“Tricks and tips will only get a person so far,” he says. “But ultimately practice and putting the time in will get them a whole lot further.”

Benoit agrees. “Making a sand sculpture requires a lot of work and the more you practice, the better you will get,” he says. “But first of all, you have to enjoy the fun of it.”

Gow Media powers up new site to report on Houston's energy transition news

go time

Texas's newest media platform has officially gone live.

EnergyCapitalHTX.com, originally announced in March, is now up and running. Houston-based Gow Media, a multi-platform media company and the parent company of InnovationMap, CultureMap, SportsMap, and ESPN Radio 97.5FM and 92.5FM, launched the site tonight at an event at Gow Media's office.

“We are excited to roll out our new outlet, EnergyCapitalHTX.com. We have been very impressed by Houston’s efforts to lead the global transition of energy and to address the 'dual challenge' of meeting the world’s growing demand for energy while at the same time reducing carbon emissions,” says David Gow, CEO of Gow Media.

“On our new site, we plan to provide informative, unbiased coverage of the Houston-based initiatives, spanning big corporations and startups," he continues. "We hope that a site dedicated to the transition will bring visibility to the city’s substantive progress and to the path forward.”

The site will cover Houston's energy transition ecosystem — the people, companies, capital sources, and numerous initiatives in Houston. Lindsey Ferrell serves as the inaugural editor of the site.

The site’s inaugural sponsor is HETI, which launched in 2021. Led by Executive Director Jane Stricker, HETI was founded to drive economic growth in the Houston area within the energy transition toward a lower carbon future.

“We are excited to support Gow Media with the launch EnergyCapitalHTX.com,” Stricker says in an earlier news release. "There is so much innovative and exciting activity in our ecosystem. Houston is the Energy Capital of the World, and this platform will amplify the energy leadership that is already happening here.”