For immediate release - March 4, 2005
TAVARES — One of the first reliable ways to travel around Lake County all but disappeared in the early 1900s, but steamboats will make their triumphant return to the Harris Chain of Lakes March 14-18.
For the sixth year, the Harris Chain of Lakes Steamboat Meet will kick off later this month with about a dozen steamboats. The boats are towed to Lake County from all over the country, including New Hampshire, New Jersey, Connecticut, Georgia, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Ohio.
The weeklong event will hit full steam Thursday, March 17, when the boaters celebrate the old fashioned days of steaming. The boat captains, crews and passengers will be dressed up in period costumes for the day. The boats will leave from the event base at Dead River Vic’s, 3351 W. Burleigh Blvd., Tavares, at 9:30 a.m. and steam through the Dora Canal to eat lunch in the City of Mount Dora. After the luncheon, the steam boats will journey back to the Tavares restaurant for dinner.
“It’s kind of like a reunion for us,” said Gayle Myers, who along with her husband Clarence, is coordinating the steamboat event.
The Myers are snowbirds from Ohio that winter in the City of Tavares. Their 30-foot steamer is a one-of-a-kind as the couple built their own 1896 replica steamboat. A steamboat does not use gasoline. A big boiler, or “tea kettle,” provides power to the engine. According to Clarence, a milk crate of wood will fire the boiler on his boat for about an hour.
The steamboat was particularly important to Florida’s economy in the late 1800s. Because of the connectivity of many of the lakes and rivers, steamboats often were used to transport fruits and vegetables grown in Central Florida. Typically, citrus grown in Lake County made its way to the St. Johns River and from there a steamboat would take it to Jacksonville. From Jacksonville, the fruit was distributed to other states by rail.
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