Record crowd in making at LakeFest

Organizers said the ninth annual LakeFest and Boat Show was on pace for a record crowd through Saturday afternoon. 

PELL CITY -- The official first day of summer may still be about a month off, but the season appeared to be in full swing already Saturday at Pell City’s Lakeside Park, home of the ninth annual LakeFest and Boat Show.

What appeared to be a record-breaking crowd came to the park Friday and Saturday not only to browse the boats and enjoy food and live music, but also to peruse booths selling everything from coffee to cutlery, sunglasses to CBD oil, real estate to wall art and hats, and T-shirts and cozies of almost every variety.

And if it wasn’t for sale, there was a good chance someone was giving it away.

Justin Hoagland, one of the event organizers, said it was on track Saturday afternoon to break last year’s attendance record of 15,000.

“We already had more than 5,000 come through on Friday and we’re probably going to double that today (Saturday),” he said. The event continues through today, when hours will be noon to 5 p.m.

“This is the first time in nine years that we haven’t had any rain at all so far,” Hoagland added. “The weather has been absolutely perfect.”

Many of the merchants set up were LakeFest veterans, but there were some new faces as well, Hoagland added.

“Speed Zone from Oxford and Gadsden is here for the first time this year,” he said, “and they’re actually letting people test drive Sea-Doos and Wave Runners on the water.”

The St. Clair County Sheriff’s Office and the DARE program were also new sponsors this year.

“Sheriff Billy Murray brought two helicopters out, so we really want to thank him for getting involved,” Hoagland said. “And, of course, our presenting sponsor is America’s First Credit Union. They have always been very supportive of what we do here.”

Speed Zone is owned by 25-time jet ski champion Dustin Farthing, and according to employee Chris White, the business’s first LakeFest has been positive.

“We did some business on Friday and we’ve seen more today, so this has been a big positive for us already,” he said.

Employee Dylan Roberts added Speed Zone takes trade-ins and has several product lines available.

Mark Hildebrand of Woods Surfside Marina, on the other hand, is one of the most seasoned LakeFest veterans. His father-in-law helped start the event nine years ago, and he has been to every single one since.

“Without a doubt, this is the biggest one yet,” he said Saturday. “Everything has been excellent. The weather is perfect. The crowd is fantastic. We’re really excited about the way things are going.”

In addition the merchants on site, there were also numerous booths set up for people and companies offering services related to life on the lake. Yellowhammer Roofing was one such company.

Owners David Stout and David Norris both live in the area and have been attending LakeFest from the beginning, but this was the first time they had set up a booth.

“We’ve done so much business in Pell City, Riverside and Lincoln in the last couple of years that we decided to help give something back,” Stout said. “We’ve had a chance to say hi to a lot of those people that we’ve done work for since we’ve been here and we’ve gotten a lot of traffic so far. People see our sign, and we want to educate them on the difference between us and other roofers.”