August drag boat racing could give Florala tourism boost

Published 9:20 am Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Florala Mayor Terry Holley hopes a group of boat racers will give his community an economic boost later this month.

He and other city council members agreed on Monday to close Lake Jackson to boating and swimming on Sat., Aug. 26, to accommodate a crowd of people who will spend $200 per class to compete in the Southern Outlaw Dragboat Association’s race that day.

Organizer Jay Jackson of Ozark said his group has organized a similar race annually at Ft. Rucker since 2007.

“We generally have 30 race teams that show up,” Jackson said. “We call it outlaw racing, but we’re not outlaws. Outlaw racing is typically where there are not a lot of rules. We class the boats up, according to size. The rest of it is run what you brung.
Jackson said there also will be an antique car drive-in at the lake that day, and there will be a DJ at the amphitheater.

The boats will race in a double-elimination tournament, and each head-to-head match-up will be 800 linear feet. Boats will travel at 100 to 110 miles per hour, he said.

“We hope to have 30 to 40 boats,” he said. “Typically, if we start at noon, we’ll run to 5:30 or 6 o’clock.”

The finish line will be filmed, he said, because boats generally win by a hair. There also will be an EMT and dive team on site, he said.

Jackson said he because interested in doing a race in Florala while doing insurance work in the Panhandle and driving past it daily for a period of time.

Holley said the race, which draws 3,000 to 5,000 spectators when held at Ft. Rucker, fits in his goal of having a quarterly event at Lake Jackson.

Jackson stressed that the race is a family event.

“We have Cancer Freeze in February and the 24th of June in June,” he said. “If we could do this each year in August or September, that would be a good early fall event, and hopefully we can add Christmas around the lake.”