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Sizzling by the lake

South Boston NewsSouth Boston News
SoVaNow.com / July 26, 2017
After much hard work preparing for the 40th anniversary of the Virginia Lake Festival, organizers of this year’s milestone event were thrilled with the outcome.

Lakefest went off without a major hitch despite temperatures that approached triple digits Thursday through Saturday. The days were hot, but turnout was strong especially for Saturday morning’s street fair and for special events. On Thursday night, a record-setting 420 children and persons with disabilities enjoyed tethered balloon rides from the visiting hot-air balloon pilots. The previous record was just over 300, set last year.

Sandy Feat sand artists sculpted a giant catfish at the Clarksville pocket park, a nod to the record-setting catch in 2011 by a North Carolina angler who was fishing on Buggs Island Lake.

Sheila Cuykendall, director of the Clarksville Lake Country Chamber of Commerce, said Friday night’s crowd was the largest she has seen for Lakefest Welcoming Ceremonies during her time with the Chamber. In addition to recognizing the festival sponsors, Cuykendall paid special tribute to the dozen balloon pilots in town and balloonmeister Bubba Winston, who’s been coming to Lakefest for the past 25 years.

Other pilots were Buddy Carter (23 years), John King (22 years), Randy Lee (15 years), Ray Smith (15 years), Reed Basley (10 years), Bill Scarberry (five years), Amy Filling (four years), Brian Doyle (four years), Ian Leonard (three years) and Dr. Bob Deitrich, who according to organizer Brenda Fariss has been flying here “since the beginning,” at least 25 years ago.

This year a new pilot joined the group, Gabby Gauger.

Of course, the crowd Friday night stayed for the music. Logan Robinson opened, followed by the Big Time Band.

Virginia Avenue was flooded with Lakefest visitors early Saturday morning, perhaps seeking to avoid the nearly 100-degree temperature that resulted later in the day. The crowds did not appear to thin much until mid-afternoon, and people returned in force Saturday night for the annual fireworks show, Gathering of the Boats and musical entertainment by The Castaways Band.

Saturday was filled with food, shopping, Disney characters, antique cars, tractor pulls, and games and rides. At the United Country Virginia Realty parking lot, Mitch Saccoccio and David Williams set up a display of Slingshots — those distinctive three-wheeled hybrid vehicles that represent a cross between a race car and a motorcycle.

While Cuykendall said she does not like to speculate on the number of attendees (“I leave that to others”) she said the crowd lived up to her expectations, making the 40th anniversary Virginia Lake Festival a truly memorable event.

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