BUFORD — Ten feet higher, 200 more boats.
It’s hard to say whether a higher Lake Lanier played a definitive role, but AquaPalooza at Lake Lanier Islands Beach & Water Park
was certainly bigger this year than last, when the lake was at 1,055 feet above sea level, or 16 feet below full pool.
It didn’t hurt, though, that as of Sunday afternoon, Lanier was at nearly 1,066 feet.
“It’s a completely different feeling and look when the water is up,” said Kelli Eckert, a Smyrna resident, of the event. “It makes for an even better time.”
Pam Alford, off-site manager for MarineMax, agreed.
“Last year, people were having trouble getting their boats in (to the event),” she said.
AquaPalooza, touted as the world’s largest boating party, is held during the last two weekends in July at more than 100 locations around the world.
Sea Ray sponsors the annual event nationally, with the two-day Lanier event wrapping up Sunday.
Boats of all shapes and sizes pulled to the shoreline at Lake Lanier and parked, with boaters and their crews socializing on the beach and taking part in several activities through the weekend.
The event featured a “dive-in movie,” music and visits to the water park. On Sunday, some people were playing volleyball, while another group was starting a game of croquet.
AquaPalooza started in 2006 as an event for owners of Sea Ray boats. MarineMax serves as a local sponsor.
“They throw an unbelievable party for the customers,” Alford said. “It’s their way of saying ‘thank you.’”
Alford said 2,200 people registered for this year’s event, which also drew 435 boats. Last year, the event attracted about 1,100 people and 230 boats.
“I’ve been to all of (the events),” said Gail Mason of Roswell, adding that she believes the higher water level “has changed the complexion of the beach.”
Mason, her husband and Eckert, who is her daughter, arrived at the event in “Rob ‘n Me II,” a 40-foot Sea Ray yacht.
“It’s a great time to get people together, have fun and enjoy the weather,” Eckert said.
The event has evolved to include all boating enthusiasts, Alford said.
“It doesn’t matter to us what kind of boat you have,” she said. “We just want you to come, because boating is a family thing and it’s all about fun.”
The event has such heightened anticipation that boaters arrived Friday before organizers.
Friday night, food was aplenty. “Everybody brought something on their boat and they would go boat to boat,” Alford said.
The event “is fun, relaxing and truly a family affair type of thing,” she said.
Said Mason: “It is the party of the year.”