Bring your appetite and enjoy thrilling sights at the seventh annual Planes, Trains, & BBQ festival in downtown Tavares.
STORY: James Combs
Tavares has certainly soared high since recognizing its potential as an aviation hot spot and becoming “America’s Seaplane City.” On average, more than 200 seaplane pilots land at the Tavares Seaplane Base each month to fuel their aircraft and even enjoy lunch or dinner at one of the downtown area’s restaurants.
However, some may not be aware of the fun-filled festivals that city leaders have organized to attract locals and tourists alike to Tavares. One of the premier festivals is Planes, Trains, & BBQ, which will be held April 12 in Wooton Park.
There is no shortage of things to do and see. Hop aboard the Orange Blossom Cannonball and experience a re-enactment of a train robbery. Gaze skyward and see dazzling air show displays. Sink your teeth into mouthwatering barbecue. Take a walk down memory lane and revel in nostalgia as you admire the classic cars on display throughout Main Street.
“This is one of the most unique events in Lake County,” says Bill Neron, director of economic development for the City of Tavares. “It is a fun event for the entire family because there is something for everyone to enjoy.”
Twists and turns
The U.S. Special Ops Parachute Team will drop in — literally — to kick off the festivities. While the national anthem is playing, Para-Commandos will perform a precision freefall demonstration before parachuting into Wooton Park.
One of the highlights of the event is the four-act air shows, which will be held at 11a.m. and 1p.m. Expect to see jaws drop as pilots perform a series of high-flying aerobatic maneuvers such as loops, snap rolls, and hammerheads. This year’s star-studded lineup of pilots includes John Black, an Air Force veteran who will fly his red, white, and blue 8KCAB Super Decathlon at speeds up to 132 miles per hour. Patty Wagstaff, the first woman to win the title of U.S. National Aerobatic champion, will perform hard-core aerobatics in her Extra 300 RC plane. Paul Schulten, who has more than 20,000 hours of flight time since age 19, will fly his colorful Eagle that sports a steel frame fuselage. Navy veteran and competitive air racer Gene McNeely will fly his T6 plane.
“The air show is truly fantastic,” Bill says. “Each pilot will perform to his or her own music that is playing over the loud speaker system. Some will have smoke coming out the back of their planes so spectators can follow their aerobatics.”
Festival-goers can also ride the Orange Blossom Cannonball and be a part of movie history while witnessing a simulated train robbery. During the 45-minute train ride, robbers arrive on horseback and engage in a replicated shootout with local deputies. Some may recognize this train, as it has made appearances in movies such as “True Grit,” “3:10 to Yuma,” and “Rosewood.”
Do not be surprised if your appetite is roused as the smell of barbecue wafts through the air. The event is hosting a Florida Barbeque sanctioned competition, where as many as 30 teams will compete in the following categories: chicken, ribs, pork, and brisket. Some of the competitors are also vendors, allowing patrons to enjoy the taste and tenderness of their meat. If you’re lucky, competitors may provide helpful hints regarding their sauces, fuel types, and cooking styles. An awards ceremony will be held at 5p.m. to recognize the winning teams.
Other highlights include a classic car display on Main Street and live jazz and blues music in Wooton Park.
For more information, visit tavares.org.