ENGLEWOOD — Organizers say they are cautiously optimistic Englewood will be the stage for the Sixth Annual Englewood Beach Waterfest and Offshore Powerboat Association’s World Championship in November.

“(Waterfest) will be working closely with our local and county government officials, first responders and ancillary organizations to move cautiously toward the planning of this year’s event,” said Steve Gardiner, Waterfest president in a press release Wednesday. Waterfest, including Gardiner and its board of directors, is an all-volunteer event.

Like previous years, Waterfest turns to the community for its success.

OPA racing plans

Like Waterfest, the Offshore Powerboat Association is navigating the pandemic cautiously.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, OPA curtailed its racing season. The association has tentatively scheduled its first race for the 2020 season for Aug. 14-18 at Point Pleasant, New Jersey. Four subsequent racing venues are scheduled before the powerboat teams return to Englewood.

The OPA world championships are scheduled for Nov. 19-22 off Manasota Key and at Englewood Beach.

Most of the powerboat teams appear ready to get back onto the water and race.

Of OPA’s 110 teams 60% have already preregistered for the races, OPA spokeswoman Dee Ungarten said Thursday. Racing teams, however, sign up and are officially registered during race week, she said.

Call for support

As it has in previous years, the success of Waterfest depends upon support from the Englewood community.

“As we move forward in June, our marketing team is busy working on the final stages of development of our newly expanded and soon-to-be-released website,” Gardiner said.

The support of local sponsors and more than 300 volunteers have made Waterfest a success. An independent study estimated in 2016, Waterfest generated $5.5 million to Charlotte County and Englewood from the out-of-county visitors and racing teams.

“We will need those physical and financial systems within the local community to support the mission of Waterfest more than ever,” Gardiner said.

Waterfest is more than boat racing, and includes other festivities like pre-race “power up” parties, the annual block party on West Dearborn Street, and a Family Conservation Center at the races.

And it is not inexpensive to stage.

Counting in-kind and financial donations, Waterfest cost $350,000 to stage. But as a tax exempt, nonprofit group, Waterfest has donated whatever profit it does bring in to local charities and nonprofit causes.


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