Sarasota's Suncoast Grand Prix Festival starts this weekend

mclear@bradenton.comJune 27, 2013 

Hometown hero Nik Wallenda, a star of "The Deadliest Catch" and a sheikh from Qatar who has a new boat that goes 200 mph are among the highlights of this year's 28th annual Suncoast Super Boat Grand Prix Festival.

A golf tournament, a car show, fireworks and, of course, the boat race are among 15 events slated for this year's festival.

It all gets going Saturday and runs through July 7, at locations around the Sarasota area.

The festival's car show is 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday on Main Street in Lakewood Ranch. It's free to look at the cool old cars, but if you want to enter a car in the show it'll cost you $15 in advance or $20 that day.

Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar is hosting a "fan fest" with local race teams 5-8 p.m. July 3. There's a happy hour menu and a cash bar. Admission is fee.

Not everbody likes cars or powerboats, but almost everyone loves fireworks, especially on Independence Day. The festival's Bayfront Fireworks Spectacular is going to start just after dusk, about 9 p.m., on the Fourth of July. The best viewing, festival officials say, is on the Sarasota Bayfront near Island Park.

Powerboats on Display runs from noon-5 p.m. July 5 at Centennial Park, at 10th Street and U.S. 41. Admission is free and food, vendors and an impressive display of powerboats are the main attractions.

That's followed by the Festival Parade of Boats at 7 p.m. in downtown Sarasota. Nik Wallenda, who walked a high-wire across the Grand Canyon this week, will be honored during the parade. It starts at U.S. 301 and heads down Main Street to Gulfstream Avenue. Capt. Edgar Hansen of "The Deadliest Catch" is this year's grand marshal.

That same evening, from 5 until midnight, is the "Boats by the Bay" block party on Main Street between Orange and Pineapple avenues. Race boats will be on display after the parade and live local bands including Kettle of Fish will provide entertainment.

You can get autographs from participating race teams at the "Meet & Greet Who's in the Driver's Seat" event at the Hyatt Regency Sarasota from 10:30 a.m. until noon July 6. That's $5 for adults, but kids 12 and younger are free.

The "Miss Super Boat Grand Prix" Bikini Contest, always a crowd favorite, runs 3-4:40 p.m. that same day at Centennial Park. That evening, back at the Hyatt, the pre-race party fashion show will feature casino games, music and a raffle. The Swim City Show gets going at 7:30 p.m.

Of course, the centerpiece of the whole festival is the annual Suncoast Super Boat Grand Prix Boat Race. It's actually two races at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. July 7 off of Lido Beach between New Pass and Big Pass. Sheikh Hassan bin Jabor Al-Thani will be debuting his 200-mph turbine boat, the Spirit of Qatar.

For the best race experience, there's VIP race viewing on Lido Beach for $50 per person, plus service charge. The tent's open from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m.

Details: June 29-July 7, various locations. Tickets; Many event free, others various prices. Information: www.suncoastoffshore.org.

-- Marty Clear

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