By Terry Fiest, Chairman Sunnyland Antique Boat Festival  

Photos provided by Maggi and Rob Cassell, and Pete DeVito

The 41st Annual Sunnyland Antique Boat Festival, at Wooten Park on Lake Dora in the City of Tavares, had four days of beautiful Florida weather and a record crowd. This year, “The Festival of Speed Event” joined forces with the Sunnyland Chapter and featured beautiful exotic cars to include the Rolls Royce and Ferrari Clubs. We had over 100 beautiful boats occupying the new docks and the land display had an amazing variety nautical items.

The event started Thursday with the Chapter Round Table and quarterly ACBS Board meeting at the Tavares Pavilion with the entire ACBS Board present. First time they were able to meet in person since the COVID outbreak.  Thursday evening the City of Tavares hosted a welcome reception  in the Pavilion for all attendees and it was a great setting for everyone to re-new old friendships and enjoy the Florida Sun.


This was our first opportunity to use the new docks and the new launch ramp was fully staffed by Sunnyland volunteers to help participants launch and recover their own boats. This smooth operation signals and end to the Tractor Valet Service that we have been providing. Free parking in the city garage handled the large crowd and a shuttle service between the Main Gate and the parking garage operated for the entire show.

The “Festival of Speed” was a huge car show that drew a totally new and different crowd to the City. The streets were packed with spectators and the City officials stated that this is the largest crowd they have had for any event.

On Friday morning the gates opened at 9am and the crowd started to appear. The Nautical Flea Market was very popular and at 10am we launched all the picnic boats for a ride through the historic “Dora Canal” to Hickory Point. A barbeque lunch was served and everyone enjoyed the event. Friday evening we had our famous Captains party and it was like a college homecoming, everyone gathering for the first time in two years and re-newing old friendships.

On Saturday at 9:00 am, the blast from the cannon signaled the start of the show and Flotilla 43 from the Lake County Coast Auxiliary presented the Nations Colors. Jim Torburt, one of our faithful vendors sang the National Anthem to a large patriotic crowd. The Florida Woody Car Club arrived in style and was a great addition to the show.

Large crowds took advantage of the warm weather to come and look at all the activities. The ACBS symposium started at 9:30 and covered a wide variety of Boating information and focused on our SCAMPI (Sunnyland Chapter Adult Mentoring Program). This is a program of Chapter members working with younger people to get them involved in boating.

Around 11:30 the Amphicar Flotilla came a shore with a record 24 cars. They received a warm welcome and everyone was ecstatic to see so many of them in one location. Following their arrival we launched Miss America the 1931 Garwood Race Boat that had been recently refurbished. Miss America is the first boat to travel more than a 100MPH. The Mistele family who owns the boat was in attendance and Pat Crusse from “Crusin Classics” was able to launch the boat and take the family for beautiful run along the water front.


Following this, the Amphicars did a major “Splash In” to the crowds delight, and received a standing ovation when they hit the water. Saturday night we had our traditional Dinner Banquet hosted by Carrabbas Restaurant, 320 attended. Sunday morning was bright and sunny and we had our awards ceremony and church services under the “Big Top”. Around 11am we had an in-flux of people and although the show was over at noon, the outstanding weather resulted in a slow departure because everyone really enjoyed the show.

We had representation from several Marque Cubs to include the Chris Craft Antique Boat Club, the Century Boat Club, the AristoCraft Club, the Florida Glaspar Club, The Florida Antique Out Board Motor Club (AOMCI) and the Donzi Restoration Society.  The AOMCI group had the most outstanding displays and were very well represented. When you combine all the participants there is literally something for everyone and it is a great Festival.

“The Sunnyland Ships Store” was in full production for four days and did an outstanding job of selling a large inventory of nautical clothing to include T-shirts and posters depicting our 41st anniversary.

We had representation from 26 different states to include several from Canada and one from Austria. Over 200 Sunnyland Volunteers working on 33 different committees is what makes the show work. Our show signals the start of the boating season and can be compared to a “Family Re-union” or a “Home coming” event. Our 41st annual event was a huge success!



  1. Thanks for the great write-up, Terry! It’s a GREAT show that is well organized and fun! This was our seventh consecutive year visiting the Tavares / Mount Dora area for the show (or wishing there was a show!) and we hope to keep that going for years to come! Thanks to you and the volunteers and the people who bring boats / cars / engines / stuff for making it happen!

  2. It was a great show and one we look forward to every year to kick off the boat show season. Thanks for all your work to make it a success!

  3. Thanks Terry, a great write up for what was a triumphant return of the “ premier “ show of antique and classic boats. What a way to get back in the swing after 2 long years. It has been a great pleasure working with you theses last few years as Dockmaster for the show. Looking forward to many more great boat shows. Danny Ross , President, Sunnyland chapter ACBS

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