Regatta brings speedy boats, extreme pogo, huge horses to riverfront

Two years ago, the inaugural Bradenton Area River Regatta drew about 100,000 people to the area around the Manatee River in Palmetto and Bradenton.

“That’s not our estimate, it’s the police estimate and the chamber of commerce estimate,” said Michael Dongilli, the senior vice president of ISM USA, event managers for the regatta. “It immediately became the largest spectator event in Manatee County, by far.”

The monsoon-like weather was far from ideal last year, but the regatta still drew an estimated 50,000 people.

The third annual Bradenton Area River Regatta is scheduled for Saturday, and the weather should be as good as you could hope for, with sunny skies and temperatures peaking in the high 70s. Dongilli said he and his partners are expecting a big crowd again, maybe even surpassing the first year’s record.

There are reasons other than the weather — and the fact that the event if free — to anticipate an enthusiastic response this year, Dongilli said.

“We always try to bring in the top performers for this event,” he said. “Whether it’s things happening on the water to things happening on the land, these are all champions.”

On the Manatee River, highlights include a full day of racing. The Formula 2 power boats in the regatta reach speeds of up to 120 miles per hour, and make hairpin turns through an oval course on the water.

“This is isn’t something you see in Florida very often,” Dongilli said. “Usually you see offshore racing, the cigarette boats. Those boats are faster but they don’t make the precision maneuvers. And they’re much farther away, out in the water. This is more intimate. We think of it as NASCAR on the water.”

Besides boat racing, the regatta also features a “grudge match” between two of the world’s top jet skiers. Uva Perez recently set the world record in the sport, reaching a speed of 114.6 mph. He’ll be trying to break that mark Saturday, in a head-to-head race against Carlito Del Valle, whose top speed so far in 113.7 mph. That’s less than one mile an hour under Perez’ world record.

On land, live music is again one of the attractions, with stages on the Bradenton Riverwalk and near the Palmetto Pier. Acts include Bradenton’s favorite “American Idol” finalist Sam Woolf, the Nashville Yacht Club Band and a Zac Brown tribute band called ZBTB.

There will be stuff going on all day on both sides of the river, but a couple of highlights will be XPOGO shows throughout the day at Riverside West Park in Palmetto.

“XPOGO is an abbreviation for ‘extreme pogo,’ ” Dongilli said. “You’ve never seen anything like it. They bounce 10 feet into the air, even higher, and do flips and somersaults while they’re up there.”

Local food and beverage vendors will be plentiful on both sides of the river.

Something new this year is a visit from the Budweiser Clydesdales. Starting around 11 a.m., their handlers will start hitching them up on the Bradenton side of the Green Bridge. They’ll start crossing the bridge at 12:15 p.m. They’ll make the trip to the Palmetto side of the bridge in about 15 minutes, and then they’ll be available for photos until about 3:30 p.m.

The day ends with a fireworks display shortly after sunset that should be visible from all along the river on both the Palmetto and Bradenton sides.

Details: 8 a.m.-about 7:30 p.m. Feb. 4, on and around the Manatee River in Palmetto and Bradenton. Free. Lawn chairs and blankets are permitted. Coolers are permitted but are subject to “checks” at the discretion of law enforcement. Alcoholic beverages are not allowed within the event footprint. An approved “beer garden” has been permitted for the event. Spectators can purchase beer there and must consume it within the garden. bradentonarearegatta.com.

Marty Clear: 941-708-7919, @martinclear

2017 Event Schedule

8-11 a.m.: St. Stephen’s 5k Run (starts at Old Main Street and Barcarrota Avenue)

8:30-10 a.m.: DeSoto Little Anglers Fishing Tourney, Palmetto Pier


11:30 a.m., 12:45 p.m., 2 p.m., 3:15 p.m.: World Champion Frisbee Dog Shows, Bradenton Riverwalk Main Lawn

11:15 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 1:45 p.m., 3 p.m.: World Champion BMX Stunt Shows, Bradenton Riverwalk Amphitheater

RIVERWALK CONCERTS on the Bradenton Riverwalk Main Stage

11 a.m.-noon: Del Couch Music Education Students

Noon- 1 p.m.: Crystal Eyes

1-2 p.m.: Under the Moon

2-2:30 p.m.: Matt Walden

2:30-3:30 p.m.: Andy Pursell Band

3:30-4 p.m.: Paige Merriman

4-5 p.m.: Sam Woolf

5 p.m.: The Nashville Yacht Club


10 a.m.-11p.m.: Formula 2 PowerBoat Qualifying

11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.: Formula 2 PowerBoat Division 2 Races

12:30-2 p.m.: HydroCross Jet Ski — Qualifying

Florida Winter Championship/Mayor’s Cup

2 p.m.-4:15 p.m.: Formula 2 PowerBoat Division1 Races

Formula 2 PowerBoat Florida Championship

6:45 p.m.: Zambelli International Fireworks Spectacular

7-10 p.m.: Bradenton Awards Ceremony, Old Main Street


10 a.m.-4:15 p.m.: HydroCross Jet Ski Demos/Stunts/Races

Florida Winter Championship/Mayor’s Cup

Guinness World Records and Fly Boards

10 a.m. -6:45 p.m.: Powerboat Superleague Official “Dry Pit” Riverside Avenue

Powerboat Viewing Riverside Boat Ramp

Launching of Powerboats Before Heats ... Riverside Boat Ramp at Regatta Pointe Marina


11:15 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 1:45 p.m., 3 p.m.: XPOGO – Extreme Pogo Shows

4:15 p.m., 5:30 p.m., 6:15 p.m.: meet and greet

Family Fun Zones – Pittsburgh Pirates

Art Gallery Row – Tampa Bay Lightning

Food Festival/DeSoto Beer Garden


11 a.m.-1:15 p.m.: Soul R Coaster

1:30-3:45 p.m.: Zebron and James

4-4:45 p.m.: Soul Circus Cowboys

5 p.m.: ZBTB, Zac Brown Tribute Band


11 a.m.: Arrival in Bradenton at Ninth Street West for harnessing of horses and hitch preparation

12:15 p.m.: Begin trot across bridge, from Bradenton to Palmetto

12:30-3:30 p.m.: Public Meet and greet with special photo session

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