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AquaPalooza lures about 230 boats to water party on Lake Lanier

POSTED: July 31, 2008 5:00 a.m.
TOM REED /The Times

Sean Heim walks ashore Sunday after tying up his boat along the shore of Lake Lanier Islands during the AquaPalooza marine festival.

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Low lake levels and high gas prices didn’t deter boaters from bringing their vessels — in all shapes and sizes — to Lake Lanier Islands’ Beach & Water Park this weekend.

Some 230 boats pulled up to the sandy shoreline for the annual AquaPalooza to comb the beaches, take advantage of Lake Lanier Islands’ special room rates and otherwise socialize.

The event, sponsored by MarineMax and the resort, also featured a "dive-in movie" for boaters and their crews, a gathering of about 1,100 people.

AquaPalooza started in 2006 as an event for owners of Sea Ray boats, but since has evolved to include all boating enthusiasts.

Worldwide, the marine festival attracted more than 10,000 boats and 30,000 guests to 120 sites last year.

Kevin Cooper, used boat manager at the MarineMax store in Cumming and organizer of the event, said that locally, the event drew about 10 boats in 2006 and 70 boats last year.

"This is a lifestyle for people. This is what they do Friday through Sunday almost every weekend during the summer," Cooper said.

A slow economy hasn’t caused the boating industry to sink.

"People are still buying boats," he said. "They are just using them a little differently. They’re not flying all over the lake. ... They’re just going a lot slower."

Tony Eyl, a commercial real estate owner from Woodstock, his wife, Tarne, and their two children, 5-year-old Caleb and 4-year-old Sarah Grace, arrived at AquaPalooza in their 40-foot Silverton, "Sunshine Daydream."

Eyl said he has bought less fuel for his boat this year by changing boating habits.

"Last year, if the kids got antsy, we would go cruising around and go fast and everything," he said. "This year, we spend just as much time on the boat, but we don’t just drive around aimlessly.

"We basically go from our marina to wherever we’re going to anchor and stay there for the weekend."

Cumming resident Sean Heim, a boater for three years, spent Sunday on his 36-foot boat, "Heim away from Heim." Heim is German for home.

He said he enjoyed the weekend event.

"It’s fantastic; the best thing MarineMax has ever put together," Heim said.

"It’s been an absolute blowout for us, for our family. We had the kids out all weekend."

Heim never had visited the water park before and "we’ve been up here on Lake Lanier for 15 years."

"It’s been nice," he said. "We’ll be back."

Previous AquaPaloozas were held at Six Mile Park and the popular boating hangout known as Cocktail Cove, both of which are on Lake Lanier.



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