SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - An event that brings thousands of spectators and competitors to the area every year is getting ready to start.
The 9-day Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix Festival kicks off Saturday, June 29 with the 4th Annual Bob Rizi Memorial Gold Classic at the Meadows Country Club.
“The big change this year is we’re going from what traditionally was 30 boats racing in the area to up to 70," explained the Festival Director, Lucy Nicandri. "That’s the biggest boat count we’ve seen in a long time for Sarasota.”
The races start at 10 a.m. on Sunday. Seven different classes will race in four heats. The largest class has speeds of 160 miles per hour.
Organizers said the Meet and Greet Friday was special because it gave the special needs fans an opportunity to meet the boat drivers.
“Being out in the heat and the sun, they sometimes can’t get out to meet the racers and see the boat, so this is a way where we can bring the teams in to meet these children and adults and make it a special day for them," Nicandri said.
Sarasota Police say any race operations (including delays) will be announced on race control frequency only. A livestream of the Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix will be shown on Facebook Live.
The following will be closed:
- Van Wezel Parking Lots / Van Wezel Way from East End to 10th Street – Closed from 8 p.m. Thursday, July 4, 2019 until 6 p.m. Sunday, July 7, 2019.
- South Lido Overflow Parking Lot 10 p.m. Saturday, July 6, 2019 until 5 p.m., Sunday, July 7, 2019.
- Centennial Park / Boat Ramp Closures 11:59 p.m. Thursday, July 4, 2019 until 6 p.m. on Sunday, July 7, 2019. (Staging area for the Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix Festival. A suggested alternative boat ramp is located in Ken Thompson Park next to Mote Marine Laboratory on City Island.)
- New Pass Closure New Pass will be closed Sunday, July 7, 2019 from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. The pass will be closed west of the New Pass Bridge. Boaters will be able to access the cove.
Sarasota Police say there will be limited parking available and those attending should look to carpool. They warn drivers that illegally parked cars will be ticketed and any vehicle blocking a private driveway will be towed. Anticipate long delays after the races end Sunday.
Spectators are also encouraged to leave their pets home. Several animals were spooked and lost during past events.
Here is the list of scheduled events:
Saturday, June 29 -
7 a.m. Registration/ 8:30 a.m. Start - 4th Annual Bob Rizi Memorial Gold Classic at the Meadows Country Club
Sunday, June 30 -
10 a.m. Registration / 11 a.m. Shotgun Start - Boat and Personal Watercraft Fun Run at Marina Jack
Tuesday, July 2 -
9 a.m. Start - “The Friendliest Catch” Fishing Tournament at the Sarasota Outboard Club
Wednesday, July 3 -
6 p.m. - 10 p.m. - Bayfront Grand Prix Festival Kickoff Party at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall
Thursday, July 4 -
9 p.m. - Bayfront Fireworks Spectacular at Island Park
Friday, July 5 -
1:30 p.m. - 3 p.m. - “Meet and Greet Who’s in the Driver’s Seat” Race Team Autograph Signing Event at the Hyatt Regency in Sarasota.
6 p.m. - 10 p.m - Boats on the Block Party on Main Street (Orange Ave to Gulfstream Ave & S. Palm Ave) in Downtown Sarasota.
Saturday, July 6 -
9 a.m. - 1 p.m. - Car and Motorcycle Show at Rossiter’s Harley-Davidson on Cattlemen Road, Sarasota
10 a.m. - 12 p.m. - “Race the Racer” at O’Leary’s Tiki Bar & Grill. Children and adults can make a donation to the charity and race a remote control race boat modeled after the big teams competing in Sarasota. They will actually be racing a racer.
Sunday, July 7 -
10 a.m. - 4 p.m. - Powerboat Races at Lido Beach.