Onset Beach Sandcastle Day with ‘Mr. Sandman’ features sand art, smiles

Jul 17, 2021

For Rodney Johnson — perhaps better known as Mr. Sandman — sand art and sandcastles are a way to spread joy. 

On Saturday, July 17, Johnson and Kat Jones from the Onset Bay Association set up at Onset Beach for the association’s Sandcastle Day, an event that invites kids and families to have fun and create their own art at the beach.

Johnson said the event encourages parents and caregivers to “get in there and have fun with your kids.”

He estimated that about 80 kids and their families participated in Sandcastle Day, despite the fact that temperatures were in the 80s. Families worked on their castles together, he said noting that the association makes sure all the kids are able to take home a prize. 

“All I want is to bring a smile at the beach,” Johnson said.

Johnson created his own interactive sand art on Saturday. He made a large, colorful shark with an open mouth, added a few plastic severed limbs and used some red paint to simulate a shark attack. One element of the sand sculpture incorporated a water element shooting a small stream onto the beach. He said the sculpture took an hour and a half to create.

His work captured the attention of several beachgoers, and Johnson invited everyone to take pictures posing with the sculpture — even standing inside its mouth. 

“I want people to engage with it,” he said, smiling as kids gathered to take photos. 

Johnson said he grew up in Cambridge and first got into sand art after seeing someone teach a 5-year-old girl how to make a dragon in the sand. He decided to follow along and make a dragon as well — one that was only about 6 inches big. “For some reason, some guy walking by said, ‘I like that,’” Johnson said. 

After that, Johnson came to Onset Beach and set his sights on a bigger project — a 25-foot dragon. From there, he was hooked. He made a jousting tool to kill the dragon, a sword, a shield and a helmet. 

“From then on in, I started doing everything,” he said, gesturing at his interactive shark sculpture. 

Lila and Corine Morris said they came to Onset Beach intentionally to see Mr. Sandman’s latest creation. 

“This is so funny,” Corine said, laughing as she snapped a picture of 10-year-old Lila standing inside the shark’s mouth. “I like that he uses color.”

Lila and Corine said they come to see Johnson’s sand art regularly. After thinking about Johnson’s past work, Lila said his turtle sand sculptures were some of her favorites.

Aaron Mentos, playing the steel drum on Onset Pier, was also part of the Sandcastle Day festivities. 

To learn more about upcoming Onset Bay Association events, check the website’s community events calendar at https://www.onsetbay.org/calendar-3/

For events and parties, email Rodney “Mr. Sandman” Johnson at sandmanrodney@gmail.com or call 617-320-3022.