BRADENTON -- Family and friends remembered the late powerboat racer Joey Gratton during the annual New Year’s Day powerboat fun run Sunday from Sarasota to Bradenton.
A fleet of about 70 racing boats and pleasure craft filed under DeSoto Bridge and docked at Tarpon Pointe Grill & Tiki Bar for an afternoon of socializing and sharing memories.
Among the crowd were Joey Gratton’s twin sons, Blake and Brock.
Their father’s death Nov. 11 in the Key West Super Boat World Championships is still fresh for the twins.
But the opportunity to ride in the sleek racing craft that carries Joey Gratton’s name maybe brought them solace.
That and seeing how many people took part, drawn from Key West to Seattle, all to honor the memory of their father.
“All that emotion goes away,” said Blake Gratton of the starting of the boat’s powerful engines and participation in the fun run.
Among those taking part in the fun run was Dan Lawrence.
“We all knew Joey and loved him,” Lawrence said of the late University Park resident. “We raced against him, and he came to the fun run every year.”
Brad Lisk, dockmaster at Tarpon Pointe Grill & Tiki Bar, said event organizers were expecting about 42 participants, which was more than normal.
But the fact that the fun run would be honoring Joey Gratton brought participants from near and far who wanted to pay their respects.
“Wow, that’s a lot of boats,” Lisk said.
Bruce Bottorff, who owns Tarpon Pointe with his wife, Kim, was impressed with all the boats and participants.
“This is awesome. What a beautiful day,” Bottorff said.
David Branch, another of the racing fraternity, said the fun run has been an annual event for six or seven years.
“There is so much camaraderie between racers,” Branch said.
The crowd seemed to enjoy the experience at Tarpon Pointe, which opened July 4.
“We’re coming back,” said David Peterson of Sarasota.
In addition to his racing career, Mr. Gratton was part owner of Buccaneer Pawn Shop, 3119 First St., Bradenton.
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be contacted at 941-745-7021. Tweet: jajones1