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Five things to know for the 2019 Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix Festival

It’s time to race. Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix happens this weekend

P1 SuperStock powerboats race on the Gulf of Mexico during the 2018 Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix.
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P1 SuperStock powerboats race on the Gulf of Mexico during the 2018 Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix.

Looking for something fun to do this Fourth of July weekend?

The 2019 Sarasota Grand Prix is here, and the main event happens this Sunday when top race teams from around the world compete off of Lido Beach.

Here are five things to know before you go:

What’s it all about?

The Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix is an annual competition that brings top powerboat racers from around the world to sunny Sarasota to compete for cash and glory in thrilling races on the Gulf of Mexico.

The event is the third leg of the American Power Boat Association’s six-part championship series.

More than 50 race teams are expected to participate in the competition’s 35th year, including teams from Italy, Trinidad, Australia, Norway, United Arab Emirates, Wales and Canada.

The festival includes several community events leading up to race day on Sunday.

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The Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix brings top powerboat racers from around the world to Sarasota to compete for cash and glory in races on the Gulf of Mexico. Bradenton Herald File Photo

What’s the schedule?

Wednesday: Bayfront Grand Prix Festival Kickoff Party

Celebrate the opening of the festival and pregame the Fourth of July with a night of live music, food and drink at Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall.

A live auction will raise money for charity.

Details: 6-10 p.m. Wednesday. Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall Grand Foyer, 777 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. $75. ( Includes food stations and open bar). sarasotapowerboatgrandprix.org.

Thursday: Bayfront Fireworks Spectacular

The festival is the sponsor of Sarasota’s biggest Independence Day fireworks display, which launches south of the Ringling Bridge and is viewable from all over the city.

Bayfront Park and Marina Jack are good bets, but stake them out early enough to get a good spot.

Details: 9 p.m. on Thursday. Bayfront Park, 2 Marina Plaza, Sarasota. Free. 941-487-7904. sarasotapowerboatgrandprix.org.

Friday: “Meet and Greet Who’s In The Driver’s Seat”

The public is invited to meet the racers and get autographs during this social event.

Details: 1:30-3 p.m. Friday. Hyatt Regency Ballroom, 1000 Boulevard of the Arts, Sarasota. Adults: $5 donation. 18 and under: Free.

Friday: “Boats on the Block Party”

Enjoy live music and see the powerboats up close before they hit the water.

Details: 6-10 p.m. Friday. Orange Avenue to Gulfstream Avenue and South Palm Avenue in downtown Sarasota. Free.

Saturday: Car and Motorcycle Show

See vintage cars and motorcycles on display at Rossiter’s Harley-Davidson of Sarasota.

Details: 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday. Rossiter’s Harley-Davidson, 330 Cattlemen Road, Sarasota. Cars and motorcycle owners must pay to enter the show.

Saturday: Race The Racer

Maybe you can’t beat a powerboat racer on the water, but how about at a remote control race?

During this event, kids and adults can make a donation to charity and race a mini powerboat against one of the festival’s competitors.

Details: 10 a.m.-noon Saturday. O’Leary’s Tiki Bar & Grill, 5 Bayfront Dr., Sarasota. sarasotapowerboatgrandprix.org..

Sunday: Powerboat Races on Lido Beach

Sunday is the big day. Head out to Lido Beach to see the action up close as multiple classes of powerboats line up to race.

The games begin at 10 a.m.

Details: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday. Lido Beach, 400 Benjamin Franklin Dr., Sarasota. Free. sarasotapowerboatgrandprix.org.

How’s the weather looking?

It’s Florida, so don’t forget the sunscreen and swimsuit ... and the umbrella and raincoat.

Forecasts for race day show highs in the upper 80s to low 90s and rain chances around 40 percent.

Where’s the best place to watch?

This year, the course has been expanded to offer prime viewing all the way down Lido Beach.

Watch from land or bring some floats and enjoy the races from the water.

If you can’t make it to race day, the event will be broadcast live on Facebook at facebook.com/PowerboatP1WC.

The races will also be broadcast on CBS Sports Network at 3 p.m. on Aug. 4 and on Fox Sports Network on a date to-be-announced.

Where does the money go?

The Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix is sponsored by and supports Suncoast Charities for Children, a Sarasota-based nonprofit. The organization raises money to fund grants for other community non-profits that aid children and adults with special needs.

Donation opportunities will be available at festival events.

The Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix is the only race in the APBA Championship Series run entirely by a charity.

Ryan Ballogg covers arts, entertainment, dining, breaking and local news for the Bradenton Herald. He won first place for feature writing in the Florida Press Club’s 2018 Excellence in Journalism Competition. Ryan is a Florida native and graduated from University of South Florida St. Petersburg.
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