ORLANDO/CENTRAL FLORIDA Paul Lovett, owner of event management company Incognitus, believes a successful community event requires diversity. That’s why the new festival he is producing in downtown Orlando September 7-8, dubbed Soaked, will be much more than a water-sports event. In addition to two days of slalom and jumping competition on Lake Eola, the festival will have three stages for entertainment, a muscle car show, half-pipe skate ramp, and food from several local restaurants.
“That’s the model of the successful event—to make it diverse,” Lovett said. “It’s what you wrap around it that makes a difference. Consumers are becoming more demanding, so what are they going to eat, what are they going to drink, what other experiences did they have? You can go to a water-skiing event and see these athletes, but you can’t have the experience like we are wrapping around this.”
The festival has been scheduled to coincide with the Surf Expo, which brings thousands of water-sports manufacturers and buyers to the Orange County Convention Center every year in September and January. The festival‘s main event—a competition with 20 male and 20 female water-ski jumpers from around the world vying for a $100,000 total purse—will take place at night, after the expo has closed.
During the day, the lake will be the site of competitive slalom events and wakeboarding and trick ski exhibitions. Sponsors include water-sports brands such as MasterCraft and Centurion Boats, as well as Absolut Vodka, Gibson Guitar, Yelp, and Dos Equis.
“The sponsors that are coming onboard are coming with me on this journey,” Lovett said. “We feel it’s a reemergence of the sport. They are in this with their help and support and their funding, and they see the future in this thing.”
Lovett said the idea for the festival developed about five months ago when the parents of some competitive water skiers approached him about wanting to do something to bring awareness to the sport. “One of my goals is to raise the recognition of this sport to where it should be,” he said. “But I am all about a festival that will bring not just water-ski enthusiasts to the table, but have something for everyone.”
Visit Orlando is providing PR services for the festival nationally and internationally, with a focus on promoting it in Canada and Great Britain, two countries where water skiing is as popular as it is in the U.S., according to Lovett. Clean the World, an Orlando-based nonprofit that recycles soap, is an official charity for the festival. The organization will receive a portion of the ticket sales and is also providing the soap for the athletes to use after they get out of the lake.
Lovett said his long-term goal is to make this an annual event in Orlando and to take it on tour around the country.