SPRING BREAK SHOOTOUT SUCCESS — First-time Orange event lays groundwork for return

Published 12:18 am Wednesday, March 22, 2023

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Don’t let the rain or small spectator attendance fool you.

Last weekend’s Spring Break Shootout jet ski competition in Orange was a huge success.

Explore Orange and Nauti Water Racing hosted the Jettribe Mid America WaterX Championship tour Friday and Saturday at the City of Orange Boat Ramp, and talk is underway for the possibility of the event returning next year.

“We’re excited,” Orange Events Manager Leigh Anne Harrell said. “The more people hear about something, the more it starts to spark their interests. This was the kickoff to (the Nauti Water Racing) season. We’re hoping they have a great season and kick it off again (in 2024) back in Orange.”

More than 100 racers from across the nation were registered to participate in the youth event. Some ultimately didn’t make the trip due to the weather, but Harrell said most did and their impacts were felt locally.

“The races went on,” she said. “We got so many hotel rooms from the racers, which is ultimately our goal. Obviously we want the community to come and enjoy them, as well. We got a glowing email from the race director. They were so nice to people in Orange and utilized their businesses.”

The race director expressed to Orange officials, even with a bout of rainy skies, organizers are already receiving requests for Orange to be on the tour next year.

“Half of the battle is building that relationship and finding people who want to come here,” Harrell said. “These people spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on travel, jet skis and equipment for racing. They are not going to just go anywhere. You have to build the trust.

“We don’t have big, fancy theme parks, but hospitality goes a long way, whether people realize it or not.”

Organizers said it was special to have Orange Mayor Larry Spears Jr. attend both mornings of the racers’ meetings.

According to Harrell, the logistics for permitting and safety are similar whether you have 10 or 1,000 racers.

The Sabine Lake is half Texas, half Louisiana, and you must get permits from both states. The U.S. Coast Guard and Acadian Ambulance are also involved for safety.

“Orange County Sheriff’s Office spent hours out there on the water, because we can’t close the river,” Harrell said. “The sheriff’s office will hold boats until a race is over. We don’t want to hinder anyone else. A few times between races, they would escort boats through. They did an incredible job with that.