Thousands enjoyed festivities on the Palmetto side of the Manatee River during the third annual Bradenton Area River Regatta on Saturday.
The crowds were light around noontime in Palmetto, but that changed quickly as droves of people descended on Palmetto as the Budweiser Clydesdales made their way over from Bradenton. By the time the majestic horses arrived, the crowd was estimated to be more than 6,000 people, according to Palmetto Chief of Police Scott Tyler.
Sharon Wood of Bradenton was enjoying a cold beer as she listened to live music on the stage from afar.
“Everything has been fantastic,” Wood said smiling.
She and her husband, like every year, were enjoying much of what the regatta had to offer, including the bike show, the dog show, the live bands and, of course, the power boats, she said. And unlike the many who rode the trolley or water taxi to get back and forth across the Manatee River, Wood said they walked back and forth.
“I think this side, with the bands, was good, but there was more to see on the Bradenton side,” Wood said. After giving it more thought she added, “Both sides were awesome.”
The Woods, however, did not like that the adult-beverage area was fenced in and limited to just one location.
“It’s like we are trapped rats,” Wood said.
Palmetto was the only place spectators could get a cold beer at the event. At least 2,000 people were given wristbands so they could purchase drinks inside the tented area.
Many people used the free trolley service that was offered throughout the day to enjoy a beer at the Budweiser tent and then cross back for other activities, including the races.
Many people came just to see the Clydesdales, setting up their chairs along the road in anticipation.
But as the day wore on and races came to an end, a steady crowd remained to watch the live music on stage in Palmetto with the sun setting over the Manatee River.
Buddy Fulford of Palmetto arrived on the riverfront just in time to see ZBTB, the Zac Brown Tribute Band, take the stage.
“I just came down to see them,” Fulford said.
He had attended the first regatta in 2015, he said, but each time he was more interested in seeing the bands than the power boat races.
“I looked on YouTube and liked some of their songs,” Fulford said.