Ball fields flooded — airboaters come to the rescue!

Posted 6/19/23

The Okeechobee Community Recreation Association (OCRA) didn’t let wet weather stop them...

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Ball fields flooded — airboaters come to the rescue!


OKEECHOBEE – The Okeechobee Community Recreation Association (OCRA) didn’t let wet weather stop them from playing ball over the Father’s Day weekend.

OCRA was proud to host the District 8 Dixie Youth Tee Ball, 8U, 12U tournament over the June 16-18 weekend. When storms left the ball fields flooded, they still found a way to play ball, with a solution that some say might be found “only in Okeechobee” – using air boat fans to dry the ball fields.

“First kids ranging from 5-12 yrs old, coaches, parents/families, and fans sat and waited out rain and lightning storms both Friday night and Saturday morning,” the OCRA Facebook post explained. “People from Okeechobee, Clewiston, Avon Park, and Sebring all were here supporting Dixie Youth District 8 baseball. Now we can’t forget everyone it took to prepare the fields/park for us. Okeechobee County Parks and Recreation Okeechobee County Maintenance, and OCRA - Okeechobee Citizens Recreational Association. And then when most would have called it a wasted day due to wet fields ... our community calls friends/family to bring the blow boats! But this could not have been done with out approval from Okeechobee Parks and Recreation ... so we have to thank them for allowing it. Then we have to thank each of those boat owners/operators ... fuel for those things isn’t cheap! And thank you to each of our board members, our president, our coaches, and friends/family that got out there to help get those fields dry. Thank you all!”

OCRA thanked airboaters Justin Shockley, Chad Burnsed, Buddy Courson, Garry McNabb, Travis Williams, and James Sharpe for coming the rescue.

“It was my pleasure to be a part of a good group of guys to help the kids. Was definitely something I’ve never done with my boat before,” replied Garry McNabb.

OCRA spokesperson Cindy Kemp said the Avon Park team won the T-Ball tournament; the Okeechobee team won the 8U tournament; and, the Clewiston team won the Ozone division. These teams will go on to compete in the state tournaments in July.

The tournament was originally supposed to be Friday and Saturday, she explained, But due to the rain delays, the final game was played on Sunday.

The teams played Friday night at 6 p.m., she said. “On Saturday, we ran into major rain delays.”

Officials were collaborating on what to do, when someone remembered using airboats to dry the fields a couple times in the past.

About 20 years ago, when her husband was OCRA president, they had the same issues and some OCRA board members who had airboats used them to dry the ball fields.

“Someone said, ‘remember how it was done before? We know people with airboats!”

They got the approval from the Parks & Recreation department, made a few calls and the soon airboaters came to the rescue. 

“The kids got to play,” she sad. “They were a bunch of happy kids!”

Kemp said officials from Avon Park  were surprised at the innovative solution.

“In Okeechobee, we use our resources,” said Kemp. “Our community is great with helping the kids. Our community is very supportive. It makes the job of the directors easier.”

Kemp said three Dixie Youth Girls teams from Okeechobee will also go to their state tournament in July in Odessa, June 30-July 4: Sweeties X-Play, Darlings and Angels X-Play. She explained players are assigned to teams by age range. The X-Play teams are advanced players.

air boats, OCRA, Dixie Youth