If you’ve ever survived a natural disaster, you wonder when life will be normal again. The basics of survival such as water, food, power and simply having a roof over your head—things you take for granted every day—seem miraculous when they return. Things like roads you can drive to supermarkets that actually have fresh food, without requiring a lifted four-wheel-drive truck and a chainsaw, are blessings you rarely notice until they’re gone.
That offshore powerboat racing even happened last month in Englewood Beach, Fla., was something of a miracle. Photo by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.
The biggest blessing, of course, is that you are still around to wonder when routine, day-to-day life will return after a storm such as Hurricane Ian sucker punches you, as it did to thousands of Southwest Florida residents in late September.
But as life’s essentials return, you begin to crave more normalcy.
And so it was with many members of the Englewood Beach, Fla., community following Hurricane Ian. The Category 4 storm didn’t obliterate the town the way it did Fort Myers Beach, which took a direct hit, some 70 miles south. Yet the damage was severe enough to make it unlikely, at best, that Englewood Beach would be able to host the Offshore Powerboat Association World Championships last month.
Despite hurdles that included a massive and still-on-going cleanup effort in the area, a significant housing/lodiging shortage and more, the Englewood Beach Waterfest organizing committee never gave up on hosting the November races. They didn’t stop believing, much less working.
Forget that the boat count was down significantly—and understandably—from that of the previous year and the weather forced the organizers to scrub the second day of racing. The 2022 OPA Englewood Beach Waterfest World Championships may have been the best one yet.
Because for three days, it helped the community begin to feel normal again.
“We’d have been happy with one boat,” said Ray LaBadie, a member of the Waterfest organizing committee. “The boat count was fantastic for what we went through.”
LaBadie acknowledged the efforts of various agencies in Charlotte County.
“We could not have done any of this without 100-percent participation from our Charlotte County Commissioners, Sheriff’s Department, Parks and Recreation, emergency service and the Englewood Beach Fire Department,” he explained. “All of these services had to give us their blessing before any of this could even be thought about.
“The effort that Englewood put forth to welcome the out-of-town guests is what makes this small beach community the best,” he continued. “The Englewood community loves this event and looks forward to it each year. Housing was at a minimum. Half of the restaurants are still in cleanup mode. Debris trucks are continuously pounding the pavement to clear the way.”
The offshore racers who came to town didn’t just show up to compete, LaBadie added. They pitched in before, during and after the event.
“I know they don’t want recognition, but the offshore racing army lifted us out of the rubble,” he said. “It wasn’t a ‘one and done.’ They spent weeks here doing what was needed, from delivering fuel, water and ice to cutting paths through the rubble to bringing love and support to those in desperate need.”
LaBadie paused for a moment. “I could go on and on with specific names, but this group will forever be in our hearts. I want to thank them all for their love and support and wish them all a wonderful holiday season.
“Now, let’s get back to racing,” he added. “Planning starts in February after a much-needed break.”
As the community has already proven, Englewood Beach is ready to get back to normal.
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