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“Banana” George Event Makes A Splash In Return

By Betsy Gilman | Nov. 02, 2020, 10:58 a.m. (ET)

Every once in a while… "Going Bananas" is a good thing!

Everyone could feel the spirit of “Banana” George Blair on Oct. 24 and 25 at Lake Silver in Winter Haven, Fla., as the tournament George started many years ago made a comeback.

It had been several years since the “Banana” George Blairfoot Bananza had been held, and the American Barefoot Club’s Southern Regional Director, Mikey Caruso, thought it was time for a “Bananza Intervention.” 

“It just had to happen,” says Caruso, a former Junior Barefoot World Champion and member of the 2020 U.S. Elite Barefoot Water Ski Team. “We had to do it for George and everyone who loves him.”

More than 40 barefoot water skiers ranging in age from 7 to 80 years old gathered at a safe, social distance to celebrate the memory of George and ski in the two-day Figure 8 and Endurance Tournament.

But it wasn’t just about barefooting, the two-day event raised $4,000 for The USA Water Ski & Wake Sports Foundation’s Banana George Blair Ambassador College Scholarship. A check was presented to USA-WWF Scholarship Administrator Jeff Clark at the tournament Saturday night.

If you are a college-age water sports athlete… APPLY HERE for the “Banana” George Ambassador Scholarship and other Foundation Scholarships.

If you would like to donate to the scholarship fund, contact Jeff Clark at or make a donation HERE.

Winners received a super cool trophy, a Masterline Ski Handle and amazing framed photos from George Blair’s Office donated and presented by Donna Blair, who also helped sponsor the tournament!  Donna also gave every competitor a copy of the “Banana” George book by Karen Putz.

George’s Great-Granddaughter, Hayleigh Blair, helped present the awards and even participated in the Boom Division! 

View the complete recap with photos.


Saturday Figure 8 - Head-to-Head

Juniors (16 and under)
1. Van Jantzen, South Carolina
2. Owen Schattschneider, Wisconsin
3. Claire Flowers, South Carolina

Seniors (60 and up)
1. Don Simon, 80, Florida
2. Danny “Sparky” Wicks, New Jersey
3. Chuck Bender, Wisconsin

Adults (17-60)
1. Marc Donahue, Florida
2. Wayne King, Canada
3. Paul Miller, Indiana

Boom Division:
Hayleigh Blair, Georgia
Spencer Barrington-Hughes, South Carolina
Silas Walliser, Florida
Micah Walliser, Florida

Sunday Endurance – Timed Circles

Juniors (16 and under)
1. Van Jantzen, South Carolina 7:25
2. Noah Kinnaman, Missouri 7:02
3. Owen Schattschneider, Wisconsin 5:03

Adults (17-60)
1. Marc Donahue, Florida 9:55
2. Wayne King, Canada 9:36
3. Paul Miller, Indiana 7:35

Seniors (60 and up)
1. Danny “Sparky” Wicks, New Jersey 2:37
2. Ron Coonse, Indiana 2:26
3. Al Hager, Florida 1:43

Thanks to our sponsors: Visit Central Florida/Polk County Sports Marketing, Delray Beach Executive Suites, Joanne Blair, Donna Blair, Georgia Blair, Carrie Blair, Robin Blair, Ted Blair, John Cornish, Masterline, Celcius, ABC Southern Region, Just Add Water Media, American Barefoot Club, World Barefoot Center, Patrick & Charlotte Stewart, Don Stoppe, The Jersey Boys, Bob Swanbom and Adrienne Rundell.

Massive thanks to Hank Longo, Chief Judge Justin Landers, Boat Wrangler Don Simon, Chief Driver Ben Groen, Announcer Jared “The Golden Voice of Water Skiing” Lippelgoos, Chief Safety Char Portman, Bracket Men Al Hager and John Friede, COVID Sanitation Officer Deanna Dean, Ice Man Chuck Bender and Chief Registrar Alyx Matheny! 

And of course, The Bananza Committee: Chuck Bender, Mikey Caruso, Tim Collette, Deanna Dean, Ted Eisenstat, John Gillette, Betsy Gilman, Ben Groen, Al Hager, Justin Landers, Marty Levine, Jared Lippelgoos, Rob Scott, Don Simon, Steve Shannon, Lance Smith and Bruce Walter.