Sarasota Grand Prix Festival is this week
More excitement and block party added to annual event
The Sarasota Music Festival ended on Saturday, on Sunday one of the largest festivals of the year began. The Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix, now in its 32nd year, has changed in the past two years eliminating some events and replacing them with events that better fit the vision of the nine-day event production by Suncoast Charities for Children. Thousands flock to Sarasota for the excitement and festivities associated with powerboat racing. There are so many visitors that the economic impact is tremendous, pouring over $32 million into the local economy and generating nearly $443,000 in local and state taxes.
For the first time last year CBS Sports broadcast the racing live from coast to coast. This year the racing is sanctioned by sanctioned by Powerboat P1, USA Superstock P1 National Championship and AquaCross (AquaX). For two days Lido Beach becomes a haven for race fans on Saturday and Sunday to catch the best view of the action.
Also added this year is a downtown block party, “Boats on Main” on Friday from 6 to 11 p.m. featuring Luna Blue, a well-known central Florida classic rock band. This event replaces the power boat parade but visitors still have a good opportunity to meet the drivers earlier in the day on Friday from noon to 2 p.m. in the Hyatt Regency ballroom.
The festival actually began on Saturday with the Bob Rizi Memorial Golf Classic at Laurel Oak Country Club. On Sunday there was a car show in Lakewood Ranch, a shotgun start at Marina Jack that kicked off the watercraft fun run and a “Ride in the Park” motorcycle ride that benefited Suncoast Charities for Children. This is a non-profit organization that provides services for children through adults with special needs.
It picks back up tomorrow night on Tuesday with the festival kick-off party, “Grand Prix by the Sea”. Tickets can be purchased for $100 each online through noon on Tuesday with proceeds going to Suncoast Charities for Children. The party will be held at the Sarasota Yacht Club from 6 to 10 p.m. and feature the popular band, Kettle of Fish. There will be a 50/50 raffle and silent auction. The next public event is on Wednesday, “Fan Fest” from 5 to 9 p.m. at Fleming’s Steak House on Siesta Drive.
Qualifying races for the P1 SuperStock and AquaX divisions runs on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The Sarasota event for P1 SuperStock racing is part of an international series that moves to Gosport in the United Kingdom on July 9-10. Two-man crews control 28-foot boats of 250 horsepower and higher and travel at speeds over 70 MPH on flat, open water. The AquaX series began in London in 2011 and features jet ski sprints of 10 minutes each and enduro races that put competitors together in three classes of 200 through 300 horsepower sit-down watercrafts. The finals for AquaX professional racers start at 9 a.m. on Sunday, followed by the amateurs at 9:45 a.m.
The powerboat Sarasota Invitational Classes of Unlimited, Super Cat, Super Vee, Pro Am 1, Pro Am 2, Cat Light and Super Vee Light powerboats have open practice on Saturday from 11:45 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. The unlimited class may be the most exciting powerboat racing with speeds of 200 mph. The engines are the same as those that power Chinook military helicopters and throw rooster-tails as high as 300 feet. On Sunday the powerboats conduct their races starting at 11 a.m. and except for a brief intermission to refuel the helicopters, continue to 3:15 on Sunday. The SuperStock division completes all racing at 3:45 p.m. on Sunday.
The best viewing for all the races is on a stretch of land on the Lido Key beaches west shore. There are two concerns that the county addressed with ordinances. The first is the issue for the protection of nesting turtles. Therefore, police will be looking for glass bottles, pets at any time or walking on to the beach before sunrise and after sunset. Security is another issue. Unattended personal items will be confiscated and temporary canopies left overnight will not be permitted. Police will post signs with these holiday weekend restrictions. Online tickets are available for a special VIP race view from Sandcastle Resort on Lido Key, Saturday's VIP race view advance tickets are purchased here while Sunday's viewing are online through this ordering page.
The boats will enter Sarasota Bay through the Centennial Park boat ramp and cross over the bay to the Gulf through the New Pass inlet. At midnight on Thursday through 6 p.m. on Sunday Centennial Park will be closed for parking except those with special passes. Centennial Park is across the street from Publix on Tamiami Trail at 10th street. Boat traffic will be restricted at New Pass during race times.
Stay for the award presentations at 5 p.m. on Sunday at Centennial Park, then return Monday night for one of the area’s best fireworks displays from Island Park. Whatever your plans are for the holiday I wish you a safe and enjoyable weekend. Please contact me at (941) 387-1840 if you have a property to sell or buy.