Writer Grace Hill
Stone photography by Tim Anderson
Elephant/Sand photography by Villafane Studios

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]hroughout the year, the Town of Carefree diligently plans events that provide the public with unforgettable experiences. These one-of-a-kind events, tucked away in the beautiful Sonoran Desert Foothills, leave guests filled with delight and the desire to return for the next fun-filled affair.

The next event, the Sand and Stone Exhibit scheduled for March 4, will impress all who attend as it features Carefree’s favorite sculptor, Ray Villafane.

For those unfamiliar with Villafane, the world-renowned pumpkin carver and sand sculptor recently transformed the Carefree Desert Gardens into an autumn wonderland with his quirky and imaginative pumpkin carvings. These pumpkins, which are unlike any other, have earned him the title “The Michelangelo of Pumpkin Carving” dubbed by Martha Stewart.

“We receive countless calls asking when Ray will be coming back for the season,” says Gina Kaegi, the director of marketing for the Town of Carefree. “He is a draw to the town and garners media attention like no other.”

In addition to his pumpkins, Villafane had people flocking to Carefree back in May 2016 to see his sand sculpting masterpiece. With the added sculpting skills of Sue Beatrice, their creation came to life and featured the beloved “Chessie Trunkston,” a life-size elephant playing chess with an adorable field mouse, “Hershel Higginbottom.” This amazing event allowed the public to watch them turn 24 tons of silt into a magnificent display of sand sculpting excellence.

Once again, the public will have the opportunity to watch Villafane work his magic and produce a new sand creation sure to amaze. This year he will be assisted by another sand sculptor, Nikolay Torkhov from Russia, whom Villafane met at a sand event in Italy.

Undoubtedly, this will be another event that the whole family will enjoy and remember for years to come. Kaegi explains the specialness of an event like this: “Visitors can stop, talk to the artist and in some cases, sculpt alongside a world-renowned artist like Ray; it is an experience like no other.”

In addition to the sand sculpture, there will be a special appearance by professional stone balancer, Tim Anderson. On March 17-19, he will join Villafane and add his one-of-a-kind artistic creations to the event, which can be admired throughout the Carefree Gardens.

Anderson’s career in stone stacking began after a climbing injury in 2011 kept him grounded. With an artistic background and an already established interest in cairns (human-made stone stacks), it seemed only natural for Anderson to spend his recovery time next to a river to work on his rock stacking abilities. This then developed into an extraordinary stone balancing talent and all who see his work are flabbergasted by his gravity-defying rock towers.

On March 17-19, 150 fine artists will also bring another dynamic experience to Carefree during Thunderbird Artists Fine Art and Wine Festival. With Villafane, Torkhov, Anderson and the Thunderbird Artists, there can be no better time than now to visit Carefree and enjoy all that the town has to offer.

“Carefree’s mission is to create indelible memories for residents and new guests through unique experiences among a beautiful backdrop like the Carefree Desert Gardens,” says Kaegi.

A mission they continually achieve.

Sand and Stone Exhibit
March 4 through Summer 2017
Sanderson Lincoln Pavilion, Carefree Desert Gardens
101 Easy Street, Carefree
Free Admission*
*$3 between March 17-19 during the Thunderbird Artists Fine Art and Wine Festival