You may not have any particular interest in the sport of rowing, even though the most-accomplished rowers in the world are going to be competing in our backyard.
But you’ll still probably find plenty to enjoy at the World Rowing Championships, which get underway Saturday with an opening ceremony in Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota and continue through Oct. 1.
It’s a prestigious event, with athletes from 69 countries, and this is only the second time it has been held in the United States. (The only other one was 23 years ago in Indianapolis.)
Organizers have planned a festival worthy of the occasion, with entertainment that will celebrate both the international character of the event and the wealth of local arts and entertainment that the Bradenton-Sarasota area has to offer.
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They’re hoping to make it one of the best festivals the World Rowing Championships has seen.
“There have always been activities, but we’ve really ramped it up,” said Marne Gaston, the vendor relations manager for the 2017 World Rowing Championships.
Gaston is in charge of the vendors, but the championships feature a lot more than just the standard food, beer and arts-and-crafts vendors you’re likely to find at most festivals.
Each day of the festival has a different theme, and the lineup of vendors changes daily to suit the theme. Military Appreciation Day (Wednesday), which is also devoted to first responders, will feature CPR and boxing demonstrations, and exhibits of military and police equipment and vehicles. On Tuesday, the park will feature a farmers market, and Sarasota Memorial Hospital will offer screenings on Health and Wellness Day on Oct. 1.
“We have 33 vendors that we’re going to move in and out every day,” Gaston said. “We also have 70 who are going to be there through the entire event.”
Live music is one of the main attractions at most festivals, but at the World Rowing Championships, it will take a back seat to the competition. Live bands from the area will perform on the festival stage at the beginning and end of the day, but not during the races.
“We just didn’t want anything to distract from the races,” Gaston said. “So while they’re racing, there’s no amplified music.”
Because people from all over the world will be visiting the area for the event, organizers have put together an entertainment lineup with an international flavor, including companies that specialize in Irish and Ukrainian dance.
One great way to get a taste of the championships is to check out the opening ceremony on Saturday. It’s free and open to the public. Sue Brady, the director of production for the 2017 World Rowing Championships, says she has planned an “entertainment extravaganza.”
Besides just being entertaining, the ceremony will show off the area to the international audience, many of whom will likely be in the region for the first time.
We have 33 vendors that we’re going to move in and out every day. We also have 70 who are going to be there through the entire event.
“As you know, we have a very strong arts presence in this community,” Brady said. “We’ll have a show that will feature the arts and also be representative of the circus.”
The stage will be reminiscent of a three-ring circus, Brady said, with performances from groups including Sarasota’s Ski-a-Rees Water Ski show team, Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, the Sarasota Cuban Ballet School, the Pops Orchestra for Bradenton and Sarasota, the Circus Arts Conservatory, and music from popular area reggae band Jah Movement.
The opening ceremony begins with a Fan Fest at 5:30 p.m., then the ceremony at 7 p.m. and ends with a fireworks display that’s scheduled to start a little after 8 p.m. Saturday.
Details: Sept. 23-Oct. 1, 851 Nathan Benderson Circle, Sarasota. One-day pass $10-$45, two-day pass $20-$80, four-day pass $40-$120, eight-day pass $80-$200. General admission on Sunday and on Sept. 27. wrch2017.com.