The Lake community: like no other
Whenever I meet someone who wants to move to the Lake and start a business, I’ve begun issuing a standard piece of advice. The Lake of the Ozarks is a big place, I tell them, but the Lake’s business community is very, very small. You’re always only one-person-removed from every other person who lives and does business here.
Some people find that reality so jarring and counter to their citified experience that they have difficulty thriving: there is little room here for self-serving mavericks who see the Lake merely as one big pool of untapped profit. Oh, there’s plenty of opportunity, but to do business at the Lake is to plug into the community that already exists, find your place in it, and then make your distinct contribution. Those who don’t, typically don’t last long.
That’s the strength of such a tight-knit community, and no better single place do you see this play out than in the Shootout. It’s become the way business owners connect with the heart of Lake of the Ozarks. Some—the socialites—scarcely will miss a Shootout-related event. Others find an event that seems perfectly suited, and they come aboard as sponsors. Still others buy ads in this most-excellent of magazines (I’m not biased), or set up booths at the Vendor Village, or send volunteers to help park cars or patrol the race course. It’s a massive network that yields stunning results: last year alone, the Shootout raised well over $300,000 for Lake area charities and fire districts. That’s real money, helping organizations all over the Lake put out fires—literal and figurative—in our community. Over things like that, we celebrate together. But a community also means sharing in one other’s difficulty and grief. And in 2018, the Shootout family had more than its fair share.
In March of 2018, Jessica and Malachi Brazil, daughter and grandson of Dave and Connie Weyer (Connie serves on the Shootout board and the couple owns Advantage Marine in Sunrise Beach), were suddenly snatched away: killed in a head-on collision, that also killed the other driver, on the Highway 5 Niangua Bridge. In October, “Captain Ron” and Nicole Duggan lost their daughter, Mariah. And Shootout Executive Director Christy Janssen and her partner Dwight spent much of 2018 fighting the battle of his life, against cancer.
But the shadow proves the sunshine. The Weyers and those around them successfully pushed a ban on texting and driving in Sunrise Beach. And they started the Jessica and Malachi Brazil Foundation, which provides non-traditional scholarships to foster and adopted kids in the Lake area. The scholarships will help these young adults transition into post high-school education. The foundation received $5,000 in Shootout donations last year. Ron and Nicole experienced in a new way just how close-knit this Lake community is, in the outpouring of condolences and sympathy. And Christy and Dwight felt the love and support from this community, too. He went on to beat cancer, with a good outlook for the future.
Now, what does any of this have to do with a boat race?
It goes to show that the race is rooted in a place, and the place is made by its people. Somewhere else, in some other community, the Shootout may have been a quickly-passing fad: an event that ran hard for a few years but fizzled when the novelty wore off. Not so in this community. The Lake of the Ozarks Shootout is celebrating 31 years because it is a manifestation of the best parts of the community that built it. The Lake is indeed a special place: to live, give, work, raise a family, and be part of a community. Happy 31st birthday, Shootout and Shootout community! Here’s to 31 more… one great year at a time.