When we visited the old Cypress Gardens, one of our most memorable experiences was watching the ski show. But after the Gardens became Legoland in 2011, we were saddened that the show would “never be the same.” However, as fortune would have it, the Cypress Gardens ski team lives on.
On a recent trip back to Winter Haven, we found it’s not over. On many Saturdays, the Cypress Gardens ski team still puts on quite a show. The audience sits on the shore of Lake Silver. They view much of the same sights we saw at Cypress Gardens back before the turn of the Century.
At the show we attended, we got the feeling we were back at the old Ski Show Stadium. Even “The Voice of Cypress Gardens” Mike Markowitz, was back behind the microphone, calling the action.
We watched the Rampmasters do flips and helicopter spins off the ski jump. There was the Swan on the Swivel with her 360-degree spins on a special ski. We saw a great adagio performance with a father and daughter team of Paul and Mali O’Connor doing lifts. And the finale was the signature Cypress Gardens ski pyramid.
Led by Former Show Director, Mark Voisard, the Cypress Gardens Water Skiers decided they did not want the legacy of world-class show skiing to die with the closing of the theme park. That’s when they formed a new team.
Their goal was to to pass on their water skiing skills to the next generation. At the same time, they brought nostalgia to those of us who remember the old show and the beauty and excitement of Cypress Gardens to new generations.
It was great to see former skiers from Cypress Gardens still performing. Even former Cypress Gardens ski show director Lyn Novakofski and Mark Voisard were there to help build the iconic ski pyramid.
Also inspiring was the number of young children who were learning the tricks of the trade. There were young Aquamaids skiing in unison and there even was a young, disabled man named Joe Guthrie, jumping the wakes on a specially constructed “sit ski.”
A Special Treat
Winter Haven’s own Keith St. Onge, “The King of Barefoot Skiing” did a performance at the Show. He boasts 19 National Overall Champion Titles and multiple world titles. After launching upside down, he proceeded to ski the show ring backwards.
Great Inexpensive Entertainment
This is a great outing if you are in the area. There is no admission charge. However, they do have concessions, a 50-50 drawing and straight out donations to help underwrite the effort. The shows are not low budget. There were special costumes for the Oktoberfest show and the Halloween show promises to be just as well prepared.
Before Walt Disney World and the rest of Central Florida’s sprawl of tourist destinations there was a family-owned theme park known as Cypress Gardens. Cypress Gardens’ founder, Dick Pope, filled the park’s landscape with gorgeous flowers, beautiful Southern Belles, then added a thrilling water ski show.
The first ski show took place in 1943 and – until the theme park closed in 2009 – held the distinction of being the “longest running entertainment production in the world” – just ahead of Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus.
Cypress Gardens may be gone as such, but we were thrilled to find the ski show still is continuing. If you are going to be in the Winter Haven area, check out their schedule and make plans to attend.
There is both a Cypress Gardens Ski Team website and Facebook page for those who want to find out more about the team and their show schedule.