Racing boats of Englewood's shore: Image courtesy of Englewood Beach Water Fest

Englewood Waterfest: Water, Water Everywhere

The new Englewood Beach Waterfest celebrates the community's coastal connections

Englewood has long drawn folks interested in fishing, boating, and water recreation opportunities. A new festival, Englewood Beach Waterfest, will celebrate the community's liquid assets with activities ranging from educational exhibits to powerboat racing.

"We have the best of both worlds here; we have the open water of the Gulf of Mexico and the quiet waters of Lemon Bay," says Elaine Miller, president of the festival's board of directors and president of Suncoast Architect. "The water access points here are superior to almost anywhere else along this coast. If you're in the community and you're not able to enjoy our waterways, then you're not really fully experiencing Englewood."

Paddlefest

November brings Paddlefest, with three separate competitions for all levels of standup paddleboarders. There's a one-and-a-half-mile fun paddle for beginners and a three-mile open race that will take place (weather permitting) in the Gulf of Mexico. The six-mile elite race will loop around Stump Pass Beach State Park.

"With most standup paddleboard races, you can't really watch the entire race," says Ken Stead, vice president of the festival's board of directors and manager of Cape Haze Marina. "But what's unique about this venue at Stump Pass is that you can literally follow the racers all the way around and watch the entire race."

Festival organizers are expecting between 60 and 100 paddlers to take part in the races. And every participant gets entered into a drawing for a new YOLO paddleboard, leash, and paddle. In previous events, there were also clinics put on by standup paddleboard icons offering tips and techniques.

Racefest

Racefest, the powerboating portion of the festival, revs up with a boat parade and block party along Dearborn Street in November. A full day of racing is followed by the world championship for the Offshore Powerboat Association.

Some 40 to 50 boats are expected to be zooming through the water at speeds up to 200 miles per hour. The Englewood Beach area will become the official race village, and the festival will offer transportation between satellite parking areas and all the powerboating action as part of its Race Village Passports. Covering the entire race weekend, they cost $12 in advance and $15 the day off and can be purchased online, at several businesses in Englewood Beach, or at the Englewood Chamber of Commerce.

"We're trying to make it as affordable as we can so that everyone can enjoy it," says Miller.

Where to Stay, and Dine

After all, the whole point of Waterfest is for people to have a great time while experiencing Englewood's small-town, waterfront charm. That means seeing all the ways to get in or on the water in Englewood as well as all checking out the many small businesses that are part of the community. The festival's Web site lists featured lodging and dining options and a whole slew of business sponsors to provide suggestions for attendees looking for places to stay, eat, and shop.

"We want to get new people to come into our community and visit us who have never been here before," says Carol Moore, a festival board member and publisher of the Englewood Sun. "Anybody who likes to be near the water is going to have an exciting, fun day at Waterfest."