Sunnyland Boat Festival ready to raise anchor after 3-year hiatus
If at first you don’t succeed, try try again. And again.
The Sunnyland Boat Festival, known in the classic boating community as the unofficial start to the season, finally returns to Central Florida’s picturesque Lake Dora March 24 through 27 following a three-year hiatus due to the pandemic. Event chairman Terry Fiest reluctantly canceled the celebration in 2020 and again in ’21, but he vowed that Sunnyland would come back in 2022 bigger and better than ever. He kept his promise.
“It’s going to be an incredible show—probably the biggest we’ve ever had,” Fiest says. “There are some great things planned. We feel like there’s something for everyone.”
Fiest says canceling the 2020 event was harder than in 2021, because it was supposed to be the festival’s 25th anniversary celebration, so “we went right down to the wire until the whole world shut down.” Last year’s event was canceled several months in advance, mostly because the people most susceptible to COVID-19—seniors—make up the majority of the 200-member volunteer staff.
In addition, the Tavares marina was still under construction last year after suffering hurricane damage, so temporary docks were needed—and those were damaged in a separate hurricane that hit the company’s headquarters. Those concerns are now gone, Fiest says. “The marina is done, the docks are done, and the park has doubled in size. We’re ready.”
Boats will be displayed both on land and in the water, and the legendary Miss America XI will be launched so that attendees can see it (and hear it) in action. There is also a Festival of Speed event for exotic cars, and the Ferrari and Rolls-Royce clubs will be attending.
The Sunnyland Boat Festival also includes boats for sale, cruises on the St. John’s River, the Sunnyland ACBS (Antique & Classic Boat Society) Educational Symposium, a Saturday night banquet, and awards. For detailed information, visit the festival’s new website, acbs-sunnyland.org.
Fiest, 79, says he is now in his 27th year as the event’s chairman. Although he jokes that the job “is a life sentence,” at least this year it’ll all be worth it.