POLK CITY – Tucked away off a country road in Polk County, Carole Lowe says her office off the beaten path nevertheless is a very popular spot with people who love to water ski. That includes athletes from around the world, she added.
”Right on this lake, we’ll have the teen trials for the next International Water Ski Championship tournament in 2013,’’ said Lowe, the director of the American Water Ski Education Foundation and the Water Ski Museum in Polk City.
Lowe is also excited that a neighboring county will be hosting a major water ski event in September, one that she believes will put a fresh spotlight on this popular sport – and on the museum itself, considering the leading role it plays in hosting so many water ski competitors year round.
”As far as the museum is concerned, I’m sure it will draw people here,’’ Lowe said.
On May 14, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer announced that Lake Eola Park would host the first ever Soaked event, a new extreme water festival coming to Orlando on Sept. 7-8. The mayor said he expects more than 15,000 people to attend Soaked.
The festival will feature world champion water skiers competing for a $100,000 grand prize.
”It’s bringing national attention to our sports,’’ said Breanne Dodd, a professional water skier.
Paul Lovitt, the event’s organizer, noted that ‘’Central Florida is not unknown to water skiing,’’ and a lot of professionals in this field call Central Florida home because of the region’s year round tropical climate.
By taking part in Soaked, ”They’re going to risk their lives to entertain our crowd,’’ Lovett said.
”It’s great for our families, and people of all ages,’’ Dodd said. ”Orlando is the heart of water skiing. All the top athletes in water skiing, we spend all our time in Orlando.’’
Even though Polk City is an hour from Orlando, Lowe thinks this event will help her museum as well, since it chronicles the history of this sport.
”I want to be sure that when they start announcing that event (Soaked), that people know we’re just down the road from it, and we have the history of water skiing here,’’ Lowe said.
The museum at 1251 Holy Cow Road in Polk City is a part of the Water Ski Hall of Fame, and contains sports memorabilia and historical information and artifacts for water ski and boating enthusiasts. It was started in 1980 by the American Water Ski Educational Foundation in Winter Haven, and the museum is situated next to a lake where those who take part in water skiing can practice their sport.
”We get very busy in the winter months, in January, February and March,’’ Lowe said. ”In the last few months, we’ve had Russians, Koreans and Japenese visitors out on the lake.
”It gets slow in the summer months,’’ she added.
That’s why Lowe is hopeful that the attention given to the Soaked festival offers plenty of spinoff potential for her attraction as well.
”I’m excited about it,’’ she said. ”It’s the same week as the Wakeboard and Surf Expo at the Orange County Convention Center, so that’s going to be a busy week.’’
The Surf Expo will be on Sept. 6-8 at the South Hall of the Orange County Convention Center on International Drive in Orlando, and it will include a marketplace for wakeboards and water skis.
Lowe also noted that in addition to water skiing on Lake Eola, Soaked will also feature music, motor shows, carnival rides and food.
She hopes this becomes an annual event in downtown Orlando.
”It’s exciting for me that we may have something new to start up, and that there will be more than jet skiing at the event, that there will be music and children’s activities as well,’’ she said.
The Soaked competition will feature night jumps and performances by some of the best known water-ski jumpers from around the world. Tickets for the event will cost $15 per day and can be purchased at soakedorlando.com.
The athletes will hit the lake for wake boarding and slalom skiing competitions, and then in the evenings, the grand finale will be a Night Jump set on an illuminated Lake Eola. Jumpers are expected to brave speeds of up to 35 miles per hour, then execute soaring leaps that can reach up to 200 feet high – or higher.
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