ISLAMORADA -- Two young events lead the list of Islamorada happenings that the local District Advisory Council has endorsed for funding in the coming year.
The money would come out of bed taxes collected by Islamorada lodges.
This month, the Islamorada DAC recommended $40,000 in funding for next year's third installment of University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame Celebrity Dolphin Tournament. The event, which is held in June, was highlighted this year by recent Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee Warren Sapp and recently retired Baltimore Ravens star Ray Lewis.
During its first year, in 2012, the event drew 40 boats. This year there were 93 boats.
"We see a lot of potential growth for this event," Islamorada DAC member Kara Lundgren said. "Obviously, 93 boats is a huge tournament and we would like to see it grow as big as it can be."
At $40,000, the UM fishing tournament received the highest funding recommendation from the Islamorada DAC, in part because it would be able to use the money for organizing expenses, in addition to promotion. Many events that receive Tourist Development Council grants through local DACs are only allowed to use the money for out-of-county advertising.
The Islamorada DAC's second largest funding recommendation is also for an event that is in its infancy. The committee has approved $30,000 for the Islamorada Swim for Alligator Lighthouse, to be held in September 2014.
Inspired by local sculptor Larry Herlth, an advocate of preserving the five Keys lighthouses, the inaugural swim will be held next month. It will feature individuals and teams in an 8-mile round trip to the Alligator Reef Light, off Upper Matecumbe Key.
So far, 60 swimmers are signed up for this year's event, said race director Jonathan Strauss. He estimated 200 will have signed up by race day, Sept. 21.
"Probably 85 percent are from out of town," Strauss said.
The grants are not yet finalized. They still must be approved by the TDC during its Sept. 24 meeting and by the Monroe County Commission on Oct. 16.
Under the set up of the TDC, the five DACs, in Key West, the Big Pine area, Marathon, Key Largo and Islamorada, are able to earmark a portion of the tax dollars generated in local lodges to help promote local events. The TDC also keeps a portion of the tax proceeds for Keyswide promotions.
Six other Islamorada events also received the DAC's approval for funding, including the Key Largo & Islamorada Food & Wine Festival at $25,000.
The festival is also slated for support from the Key Largo DAC to the tune of $20,000. It's one of seven events the Key Largo DAC endorsed.
Heading Key Largo's list is the Humphrey Bogart Film Festival at $40,000. The event received a $50,000 TDC grant for its inaugural installment this past May. Slated for $35,000 in funding are the Orange Bowl Swim Classic and Winter Training in December and January, and January's Key Largo Stone Crab and Seafood Festival.
The Key Largo Original Music Festival, to be held in May, would get the next largest grant at $30,000. The festival received no TDC assistance this year.
In the Middle Keys, the DAC earmarked $30,000 for the 2014 Marathon Grand Prix of the Sea. Like the Alligator Reef Light swim, the Grand Prix will be inaugurated next month, but the first TDC funding would come in its 2014 installment.
Featuring four races this year over Sept. 14 and 15, the Grand Prix of the Sea will be the concluding race in the American Power Boat Association's P1 Superstock National Championship Series. The boats are all exactly the same, organizer Martin Sanborn said, meaning a premium will be placed on the racer. Races will be held in front of Sunset Grill, on the Atlantic side of the Seven Mile Bridge.
The Marathon DAC also generated controversy earlier this month when, in a 5-3 vote, board members allocated $30,000 in funds for the Original Marathon Seafood Festival, down from the $50,000 that event organizer the Greater Marathon Chamber of Commerce received this year.
The event is a popular one, but because it falls in already-busy March, it does little to increase occupancy rates in Marathon, said TDC Executive Director Harold Wheeler, who endorsed the move.
"We're here to put heads in beds," Wheeler said.
The Marathon DAC also endorsed promotional funding for four other events, including $30,000 for this year's Fantasy Fest, up from $10,000 for last October's celebration.
In Big Pine Key, the DAC recommended promotional funding for five events. Fantasy Fest would be the largest recipient at $20,000. The Underwater Music Festival, to be held for the 30th time next July, would get $15,000. It received no funding from the Big Pine DAC this year.