PALMA SOLA -- It was a day of friendly competition as teams paddled it out on Palma Sola Bay on Saturday.
Droves of people battled the beach traffic to attend the annual DeSoto Bottle Boat Regatta, part of the DeSoto Heritage Festival celebration.
Fifth-grader Jacob Bazzy was all smiles after winning first place in the elementary school division with his team from Stuart Elementary.
"All that shouting, it was just really fun, really exhilarating," Jacob said. "It was really tiring too, a great workout."
It was also a memorable first time competing in the event, in which teams create boats of all shapes and sizes that float on plastic bottles.
"I'm glad to be winning but I'm also a good sport," Jacob said. "I really have to give Palma Sola a lot of credit, they were really tough."
Many participants had family cheering them on. Pam Schroeder came to watch her daughter compete.
"This is the first time I came to watch," Schroeder said. "It's great, I wish I'd come before."
The proud mother was cheering on her daughter competing on the Demetrio's team.
"It looks like fun," Schroeder said. "Everybody's having fun."
Mark Carfley, vacationing from New York, was told about the event by a friend who is involved.
"I think it's a great event," Carfley said. "I rowed in it a couple years ago."
This time, he was happy to just a spectator.
"Absolutely no pressure, "Carfley said. "I think it's a great family event. The camaraderie is good, you know you are competing but you are all friends."
Organizers from the Hernando DeSoto Historical Society were happy with the event's turnout and gorgeous weather this year.
"Everything went fantastic," Cliff Hulsart said. "Par
ticipation was phenomenal, I don't know how we can improve next year. "
There was fun to be had for all ages. Patrick Cline from the USA Fence team, a sponsor, was taking break in between races.
"We loved it," Cline said. "We have more to go against Demetrio's; that's our nemesis."
Anzzonni Reyes was all grins holding his championship trophy after winning first place with his school, Braden River High.
"It felt awesome," the 10th grader said. "It was the first time I ever did this."
Anzzonni prepared hard for Saturday's event.
"I made a few trial boats at home," he said. "We made a different one at school, but it broke while we were trying it out here and had to use one of the ones here."
Jessica De Leon, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.