As a result of decreased funding for wildlife rehabilitation facilities, Florida recently designated three spring-fed lakes in Central Florida as sanctuaries for injured alligators. Lake Gertrude, located on the western end of Mount Dora, is Lake County’s designee.
Animals eligible for relocation into sanctuary lakes typically have missing limbs and other injuries caused by fighting with other alligators during mating season. Only alligators seven-and-a-half feet in length or smaller qualify for transferring into the sanctuary.
“The lakes were chosen for their high water quality which accelerates the alligators’ healing,” said Dr. Ayim Gunnaeatchu, the Florida Wildlife Management Commission’s marine biologist in charge of the sanctuary program. “Each lake’s ample food supply was another consideration in their selection.”
The Wildlife Commission will initially introduce five tagged alligators in each lake on April 1 and begin monitoring their health and behavior. The rehabilitation plan requires a monthly review of the animals’ health before adding more injured alligators to the lake. The maximum number of animals that can be introduced into each sanctuary is 22. Click here for more on this story.
Once again, colorful sails will gracefully litter Lake Dora this weekend. The 64th Annual Mount Dora Sailing Regatta is expected to draw dozens of boats over the two-day event beginning April 1. The races are spread over three courses across a portion of Lake Dora to take advantage of the wind and provide ample space for competitive races.
“We are hoping for sixty- plus boats, though you never know until late, as many wait to see what the weather will do,” said Charlie Kennedy, the regatta chairman.
Among the sailboats competing are Hobie Waves, Sunfish, San Juan 21s and Flying Scots.
The first race kicks off Saturday at 12:30 p.m. and the last race typically finishes close to 4 p.m. Typically, three to four races will be sailed that afternoon, depending on the weather. Simpson Cove, Lakeside Inn and the deck at Pisces Rising provide excellent vantage points for spectators. Sunday's first race starts at 9:30 a.m. and no races begin after noon.
The regatta, organized by Mount Dora Yacht Club (MDYC) is the longest running annual event in the city. MDYC, the oldest inland yacht club in Florida, held its first regatta in 1913. At that time the event featured powerboats and was reportedly such an exciting event that local businesses closed so everyone could attend. In 1953, the regatta transitioned to sailboats to alleviate a noise issue.
The club currently has110 active members and nearly all pull together to play a role in the regatta.
Healthy competition will run amok this Saturday during Eustis’ annual Amazing Race for Charity. The fundraiser, derived from a successful fundraising race in Ohio and based on The Amazing Race television series, starts at 9 a.m. in downtown.
As part of the fun, details of the hybrid obstacle-and-foot race are kept mum until the night before. Past races have averaged between five and six miles on foot with two-person teams competing twenty “challenge stations” along the way. The tasks may be as simple as solving a puzzle or as difficult as building a 2-person tent, rappelling from a tower, or a lip-sync competition.
The race attracts serious athletes as well as family teams and other amateur pairings. Awards are given for the fastest times in several categories: male/male, male/female, female/female and parent/child. Typically, the race takes over two hours to complete. Winning times can be as fast as ninety minutes.
At the end of the race, competitors gather at the Finish Line Festival in Ferran Park.
Green thumbs will be out in force at Lake County’s Landscape & Garden Fair this weekend. The event offers free nature-based activities for the entire family this weekend.
The fair is held at Lake County Extension Center’s Discovery Gardens, 1951 Woodlea Road in Tavares. Nestled on over four acres, the venue features 24 themed gardens, including a string of lush courtyards and five specially designed children’s gardens. Visitors hear expert speakers on a variety of topics, including rose gardening, native plant landscaping, pollinators and herb gardening.
Visitors also have an opportunity to browse and purchase goods from vendors selling landscaping materials, native plants, fruit trees and more.
Festival activities for kids include the Children’s Passport, with stops at five gardens, including the Backyard Habitat, Turf and Groundcover Walk, plus Mediterranean garden, Wetlands and rain garden.
Children can also participate in the Maze Scavenger Hunt. A special butterfly release is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Saturday, March 25. Children will learn about the life-cycle of butterflies while receiving a hands-on opportunity to release them into the butterfly greenhouse and watch them fly and feed on sugar water and nectar plants. The butterfly release is limited to the first 50 children in attendance.
The event runs Saturday, March 25 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday, March 26 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The annual fair is sponsored by Lake County, The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension in Lake County and the Lake County Master Gardeners.
The final phase of improvements is beginning for one of Mount Dora’s crown jewels, the Palm Island Boardwalk. During the construction process, the trails and island will be closed, but the first section of the elevated boardwalk will remain open to visitors. The hours are 7:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
The project is expected to be completed in July.
The other portions of the popular boardwalk were improved a few years ago. The current construction will bring the final section up to the same high standard.
Onlookers can pull up a piece of the Tavares lakefront as the Stetson Beach Invitational serves up collegiate beach volleyball this weekend. Hickory Point Beach, Florida’s largest single-site beach volleyball complex featuring 21 courts, will host the event. Historically held at Stetson University, this marks the first year the tournament will be held at the Tavares complex built on Lake Harris in 2014.
This Florida Region of USA volleyball tournament will feature seven beach volleyball teams from across the United States including Stetson University ,Georgia State University, Jacksonville StateUniversity, University of New Mexico, Florida Atlantic University, Morehead State University and Lincoln Memorial University.
“ We are looking forward to a great competitive event with teams from all across the country and hope to continue our relationship with the Florida Region and Hickory Point Beach for future events,” said ”Kristina Hernandez, Stetson Volleyball Head Coach.
The tournament is free for the public and the schedule is as follows:
Friday, March 17 · 9 AM: Georgia State vs. Jacksonville State · 10 AM: New Mexico vs. FAU · 11 AM: Stetson vs. Morehead State · 12 PM: Georgia State vs. New Mexico · 1 PM: FAU vs. Jacksonville State · 2 PM: Morehead State vs. Georgia State · 3 PM: Stetson vs. Jacksonville State · 4 PM: Morehead State vs. New Mexico
Saturday, March 18 · 9 AM: FAU vs. Lincoln Memorial · 10 AM: Stetson vs. Georgia State · 11 AM: Jacksonville State vs. New Mexico · 12 PM: Lincoln Memorial vs. Morehead State · 1 PM: Georgia State vs. FAU · 2 PM: Stetson vs. New Mexico · 3 PM: Jacksonville State vs. Morehead State · 4 PM: Lincoln Memorial vs. New Mexico
They have come a long way from their historic roots in Chinese naval warfare. At that time, the fast, maneuverable, oared longboats functioned like an efficient marine cavalry.
Saturday, March 11, the Chinese inspired dragon boats will return to Tavares for the 15th Annual Dragon Boat Festival. Local and regional teams will compete in multiple heats during a festive atmosphere until winners are named in various racing classes ranging from the light-hearted to the serious competitors. Racing heats begin just after 9 a.m. and continue throughout the day on the waters along Wooton Park. Taiko drummers and the Chinese Acrobats, an impressive entertainment act, are some of the festival's favorite attractions under the big tent in the park. Food vendors will also be at the event sponsored by the area's Rotary Club.
At first glance, Lake Dora seems far removed from glitz and glamour. However, once a year she flashes her more refined and alluring attributes when visitors are transported to the glamorous Sinatra era.
The downtown Tavares lakefront is gearing up for the 30th Annual Sunnyland Antique and Classic Boat Festival, the largest classic wood boat show in the country. 250 to 300 meticulously restored boats will be displayed in the water and along one third of a mile of Lake Dora shoreline at Wooton Park on March 24-26.
Now in its tenth year in Tavares, the festival is the ideal place for dreamers and boaters to spend their day. In previous years, the Antique and Classic Boat Festival boasted eye candy that ranged from perfectly varnished Gar Wood race boats of the 1930's to intriguing concept boats like the Evinrude Lark, as well as vessels of fantastical design like the 1956 Lone Star Meteor and the 1955 Chris-Craft Cobra. The prestigious event, which draws between eight and ten thousand visitors, was previously held along downtown Mount Dora’s waterfront, and before that in Sanford.
Another feature of the festival is the Nautical Flea Market where eighty vendors peddle everything from old boat parts and lanterns to shiny chrome accessories and wooden oars. Due to the large number of stunning vintage boats for sale in the designated “Field of Dreams,” nautical dreamers are advised to bring just a little extra pocket change.
The event starts Friday March 24 at 9 a.m. and ends Sunday March 26 at noon. On Friday, boaters will have an off-site lunch from 11 a.m. - 3 p.m., so many boats will not be at the docks during that time. Admission is $10 for the weekend. Free parking is available at the City of Tavares Parking garage.
The local strawberry season is still in full swing and is expected to continue through mid-March or early-April.
Oak Haven Farms & Winery, a family-owned U-Pick strawberry farm in Sorrento, has seven acres of their twenty-acre farm available for picking. Priced at $2.90 a pound, visitors can pick rows of berries, then head inside where fresh strawberry milkshakes and shortcake are made on weekends. Read more