Friday afternoon witnessed a lot of activity ahead of Saturday’s third annual Bradenton Area River Regatta.
Law enforcement and event personnel were busy setting up spectator areas on both sides of the Manatee River as the large floating dock used to start the Formula 2 races slowly churned up the river from Sarasota.
“We’re fired up and ready to go,” said Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston. “We’re excited and the expectation is that this will be the bigger than the first year.”
The 2015 inaugural event drew an estimated 80,000 and became Manatee County’s largest spectator event. Out-of-town visitors accounted for about a quarter of the 2015 crowd, according to Kelly Clark, director of communications for the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The 2016 regatta was marred by cold, wind and rain, but organizers are expecting upwards of 100,000 on Saturday.
I’m excited to play some new songs. It’s good to back in Bradenton.
Sam Woolf, “American Idol” finalist
“But we’ll be more than happy if we match the 2015 regatta,” Poston said. “We had our last management team meeting (Thursday) and everyone is happy. The environmental team is happy, too, because there will be less waves on the river, which will allow them to see much deeper to make sure wildlife is protected.”
The weather will be much cooperative this year with temperatures expected to be in the mid 70s with partly cloudy skies. That’s good news for fans, competitors and organizers alike.
“The weather is setting up perfectly to let us do exactly what we want to do, said Mike Dongilli, ISM USA co-founder and event organizer. “My expectation is that we will literally have well over 100,000 spectators here. We’ll be happy to see that. We want people to come out and support the event and enjoy what we’re providing.”
The Courtyard by Marriott Bradenton Riverfront is the host hotel and sponsor for the Bradenton Area River Regatta this year. Robyn Price, regional director of sales for the Courtyard, said she’s also heard attendance is expected to be better than the 2015 and 2016 regattas. Price didn’t provide numbers for how many regatta-related guests the hotel has booked so far.
Kelly Ann Dixon, director of sales and marketing for the Hampton Inn & Suites in downtown Bradenton, said the hotel won’t have final numbers on how many guests stayed there specifically for the regatta until the end of the weekend. But between it and other events happening in the Bradenton area this weekend, she expects the Hampton Inn & Suites to be sold out.
For the third year in a row, 2014 “American Idol” finalist and former Bradenton resident Sam Woolf will perform as one of several musical acts throughout the day. Woolf said he’ll be performing a mix of songs people know and will feature some of his new material. Woolf recently moved to Boston to focus on his music.
“I’m excited to play some new songs,” Woolf said. “It’s good to back in Bradenton. This is my hometown, and I’m excited to be here.”
There are a full slate of activities, music, food and fun scheduled on both sides of the river, as well as all of the fast-paced racing action on the river. Palmetto officials are eager to see what a change in activities will bring to the north side of the river.
“We are just really excited and look forward to it,” said Palmetto Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant. “We’re really happy with the changes made for Palmetto and we just want everyone to have a fun, safe, healthy time.”
Bradenton Area River Regatta schedule
8-11 a.m.: Saint Stephen’s Falcon 5K River Run — Main Street and Barcarrota Ave. (Front of Pier 22), Bradenton
8:30-10 a.m.: Desoto “Little Anglers” Fishing — Palmetto Pier
10 a.m.-6:45 p.m.: Family Fun Zones — Bradenton & Palmetto
10-11 a.m.: Formula 2 Powerboat Qualifying — Manatee River
11 a.m.-noon: Del Couch Music Education Students — Bradenton Main Stage
11 a.m.-12:15 p.m.: Budweiser Clydesdales Harnessing — Green Bridge Base Bradenton
11a.m.-12:30 p.m.: Formula 2 Powerboat Div. 2 Races — Manatee River
11 a.m.-1:15 p.m.: Soul R Coaster Concert — Palmetto Main Stage
Noon-1 p.m.: Crystal Eyes Concert — Bradenton Main Stage
12:15-12:30 p.m.: Budweiser Clydesdales Green Bridge March — Bradenton to Palmetto
12:30-3:30 p.m.: Budweiser Clydesdales Meet & Greet — Green Bridge Base Palmetto
12:30-2 p.m.: HydroXross Qualifying Mayor’s Cup — Manatee River
1-2 p.m.: Under the Moon Concert — Bradenton Main Stage
1:30-3:45 p.m.: Zebron and James Concert — Palmetto Main Stage
2-2:30 p.m.: Matt Walden Concert — Bradenton Main Stage
2-4:15 p.m.: Powerboat Div. 1 Races — Manatee River
2:30-3:30 p.m.: Andy Pursell Band Concert — Bradenton Main Stage
3:30-4 p.m.: Paige Merriman Concert — Bradenton Main Stage
4-4:45 p.m.: Soul Circus Cowboys Concert — Palmetto Main Stage
4-4:45 p.m.: Sam Woolf Concert — Bradenton Main Stage
5-6:45 p.m.: ZBTB-Zac Brown Tribute Band Concert — Palmetto Main Stage
5-6:45 p.m.: Nashville Yacht Club Band Concert — Bradenton Main Stage
6:45 p.m.: Zambelli Fireworks Spectacular — Manatee River
7-10 p.m.: Main Street Bradenton Awards — Front of O’bricks, 427 12th Street W., Bradenton
Continuous shows all day: Disc-Connected K9’s — Manatee Riverwalk Great Lawn
Continuous shows all day: XPOGO Stunt Show — Palmetto-West Side Green Bridge
Continuous shows all day: BMX Stunt Show — Manatee Riverwalk Amphitheater