March is the month to be in Central Florida if you like wooden boats. Major events on back-to-back weekends attract more wooden boats to the area than you will see anywhere else over the same time period. So get your sunscreen and hat and head to the shores of Lake Dora in Tavares, Florida.
Sunnyland Boat Festival
In the printed edition of All At Sea Southeast there is an article I wrote describing a vintage and classic boat cruise that ends up at the Sunnyland Boat Festival. The cruise itself is an event worth participating in (article can be read here) but if you can’t do the cruise you really should attend the festival if wooden boats stir you or you would like to show the family something other than plastic and fiberglass crafts.
March 28th marks the official start of the Sunnyland Boat Festival on Lake Dora at Wooten Park in Tavares, Florida. Put on by the Sunnyland chapter of the Antique & Classic Boat Society this festival is one of the largest of its kind on the East Coast. The show is a three-day event with plenty of wooden boats of all types in the water and on land. Classic and vintage boats from all over the United States and Canada converge on Lake Dora for this festival. Last year there were over 300 participants with boats from 25 states, from Canada and even Europe. The show is not just beautifully restored and built wooden boats. There is an area for privately owned boats that are for sale (so bring your check book) as well as a vendor section with all kinds of classic and antique boat parts, along with dealers displaying fully and professionally restored boats for sale. Restored outboards of all kinds can also be viewed and purchased and on Saturday there is a nautical flea market. Classic and vintage vessels are in the water at the docks and others can be viewed up close as they sit on their trailers on the lawn lakeside. Kids can be seen racing their tiny outboard SCAMP wooden boats in demonstration heats on the lake. There is an amazing playground for the younger ones and exceptional shopping in nearby Mount Dora. Of course there is food available at the festival or at nearby bars and restaurants, all within walking distance of the show. A steam train will be running along the lake’s edge that spectators can ride augmenting all the wooden boats sitting nearby. Organizers even claim that leashed and well-behaved pets are welcome. There are social events for participants all three days and on Friday and Saturday evenings. Once you have taken in all the sights you can set up a lawn or beach chair in the park and just relax watching all the wooden beauties running around on Lake Dora. You might even see a seaplane or two taking off and landing on the lake (sightseeing flights can be purchased at the nearby seaplane base). The park is a perfect setting for viewing all the beautiful craft and the weather is typically perfect.
Dates: March 28th to 30th, 2014
Location: 123 South Joanna Ave, Tavares, FL 32778
Cost: Adults $5, Children $3