Settled between five lakes, it is not easy for the Winter Haven Municipal Airport to expand its runways.
But those lakes are a big draw to seaplane pilots and to acknowledge that, the airport is hosting its first Seaplane Festival and Parade on Saturday.
“There are some people who don’t even know we have an airport over here,” said Leo Treggie, airport director. “Or people think, ‘I don’t have an airplane so there is nothing for me out there.’ So we want to change that mentality. Even if you don’t have an airplane, you can still enjoy the airport.”
The festival will include exhibitors, food, music and other entertainment.
Former city commissioner Jamie Beckett is an ambassador for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association for Florida and will talk about the group and how people can find their place in the world of aviation.
“The big thing I hope for is that it brings people out to see aviation for what it really is instead of what they think it is,” he said.
“Seaplanes have been a big part of Winter Haven for the last 50 years. We have the most successful seaplane training facility in the world with Jack Brown’s Seaplane Base. I think we’ve got tremendous opportunity to make this a real success for the long term.”
Treggie said he hopes the free festival becomes an annual event, especially with the expected growth in the city’s seaplane traffic.
Winter Haven commissioners last month agreed to lease land to Seaplane Pilots Association Foundation for its international headquarters.
The foundation is part of the Seaplane Pilots Association, a non-profit organization advocating seaplanes and their safe use.
The development on Lake Hartridge will be on about 2 acres of airport land and will include a hangar, apron, offices and parking area, which are expected to cost $3.25 million to build.
“We’re the seaplane capital,” Treggie said. “You’ve got to celebrate that so that’s why we’re doing the festival. And it’s an opportunity to bring the community together to see what we do.