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Commentary: Never LOTO Or Ever LOTO?

The first time I called the Lake of the Ozarks “LOTO” was the last time I used the acronym to describe anything other than a game of chance I’ll never win. That was back in the late 1990s with Powerboat magazine, and local photographer George Denny, now a member of the Bob Morgan Memorial Lake of the Ozarks Shootout Hall of Fame, tattooed me for dropping the L-bomb. To Denny and many old-school lake locals, such shorthand was disrespectful.

Strike that. It was an abomination.

By any name or acronym, the Lake of the Ozarks in Central Missouri is this nation’s hotbed for high-performance boating. Photo from the 2023 Performance Boat Center Rendezvous for Cigarette owners by Jeff Helmkamp copyright Jeff Helmkamp Photos.

That stayed with me and the rest of the Powerboat magazine crew in the years that followed. As a group, we stuck to “Lake of the Ozarks” whenever we talked or wrote about Central Missouri waterway.

That was then, as the expression goes. Now the LOTO handle is so popular and common that even what once proudly was called The Lake Race—a vague and not-so-catchy name in need of changing for years—is now LOTO Powerfest.

Which got me thinking: How do locals feel about it? Because literally and figuratively, they have to live with it. Outsider opinions such as my own aren’t relevant.

So I asked a few of them.

“When we lived in Nebraska, we always said, ‘We are going to the lake,’ which meant Ozarks,” explained Brett Manire of Performance Boat Center in Osage Beach. “I have never called it ‘LOTO.’ But it doesn’t bother me at all.”

Manire paused for a moment. “It’s funny when people say LOTO and think it means the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout,” he added, then chuckled.

For the record, the acronym for that event would be LOTOS, which would make for a slurry, messy mouthful if adult beverages were in play.

The annual Lake of the Ozarks Shootout put the area on the go-fast boating map—but it’s not synonymous with the LOTO acronym. Photo by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.

Nikki Sorenson is the driving force behind the locally produced Bikini Lives Matter and Horsepower Hottie apparel brands. Sorenson and her husband, Chuck, moved to the lake full time in 2007. Despite the couple’s “newcomer” status after 16 years in the community, Sorenson has become one of the lake’s finest ambassadors and biggest cheerleaders.

Her take is similar to Manire’s.

“Those who have grown up and lived here most of their lives—the true locals—tend to laugh at the word LOTO and are adamant that it should always be referred to as ‘LOZ,’” she said, then laughed. “But we consider ourselves ‘imports,’ or at least that’s what I call it.

“’Tomayto, tomahto,’” she added. “To me, it will always be ‘the lake.’”

A 40-year Lake of the Ozarks area resident and the main man behind the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout, Ron Duggan offered another take. He sees Lake of the Ozarks versus LOTO as a regional/situational thing.

“The only people who call it LOTO are typically from the West Coast,” he said. “I don’t hear it said until the Shootout, and then nothing the rest of the year.

“I don’t know that anyone really cares,” he added. “You just don’t hear it.”

One of the early proponents of the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout, retired firefighter Jeff Dorhauer moved to the area 34 years ago. His wife, Diana, is still on the event’s organizing committee.

“Even living here 34 years, some people still don’t consider us true locals,” he said, then laughed. “What’s funny is, I never heard about people liking or not liking ‘LOTO’ until you asked about the new name for the race.

“I think you should write something about it,” he added.

Done, Mr. Dorhauer, and the verdict based on this admittedly small opinion-sample is that it doesn’t matter. Plus, regardless of anyone’s feelings, the LOTO moniker is here to stay.

But if it’s OK with all of you, I’ll still keep calling it the Lake of the Ozarks.

More than a name, the Lake of the Ozarks—or LOTO for those who prefer it—is a state of mind.

Editor’s note: The 35th annual Lake of the Ozarks Shootout is set for August 19-27.

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