Long after the thunder of Formula 2 powerboats and the explosion of fireworks over the Green Bridge and the thrum of concerts under the stars, the 2017 Bradenton Area River Regatta’s final act was two spry men in their 70s helping the City of Bradenton’s crack trash team pick up the last remnants of a wild Saturday.
“The city has done a fantastic job,” said Sam Hershfield, 71, a member of the volunteer local trash pickup club, “Bradenton River Walkers,” as he surveyed what was left to pick up in downtown Bradenton on a quiet Sunday morning. “They were out here at 5 a.m. finishing up what they actually started right after the event.”
The City of Bradenton Public Works Department got props from Mike Fetchko, president of Integrated Strategic Marketing, known as ISM-USA, the company which put on the regatta that brought boats, concerts, fireworks and other activities to both Palmetto and Bradenton on Saturday.
“I would like to take the City of Bradenton’s workers with me on the boat tour,” Fetchko said. “These workers were all over the place. There is nothing worse than stepping on a used paper plate filled with ketchup and there was none of that going on in Bradenton Saturday.”
The Bradenton River Walkers picked up about 30 big white plastic bags of trash between them Sunday after the third annual regatta, while a usual day’s load is about 12, said LDee Collins, the other member of the two-person Bradenton River Walkers.
Although the exact attendance figures from the third regatta won’t be available until Thursday, Collins and Hershfield can judge crowds by the garbage they leave and the duo are pretty sure Saturday’s was a big one, maybe breaking the 2015 record of 80,000, maybe even six figures.
“It was very heavy, triple what it normally is,” Collins said. “We usually wait until Monday but I sacrificed church, Lord forgive me, because we knew it would be bad, so that is why we are here today.”
The final attendance numbers will be determined by city officials of both Bradenton and Palmetto, using the calculations of the police departments from Palmetto and Bradenton and the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, according to Fetchko.
The final number will be revealed at 2 p.m. Thursday during a regatta wrap-up meeting held on the second floor of the Bradenton Police Department, a meeting where Fetchko hopes he will find out if the cities are on board for 2018.
Meanwhile, Hershfield and Collins are looking for a few good women or men to click on their Facebook page called Bradenton River Walkers and join their club with the promise of good karma and physical exercise, they said.
Palmetto gets a starring role
Unlike in past years when Fetchko said the City of Palmetto didn’t receive an equal share of regatta action, in 2017 the goal was to change that.
“We set goals to balance activities on both sides of the river and we accomplished that,” Fetchko said Sunday. “I think, operationally, the 2017 Regatta was a total success.”
Palmetto Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant said she wants to talk to owners of Palmetto businesses, but, armed with initial reports Sunday, the mayor said she was pleased.
“There was so much more traffic coming into Palmetto than in previous years,” said Groover Bryant, whose city got to actually host the “dry pit” where the 14 powerboats were headquartered, making that a key spectator attraction.
“They did follow through and had attractions on our side of the river,” Groover Bryant added. “I loved the Budweiser Clydesdale horses. It seemed like our restaurants were all busy Saturday even if they weren’t on the riverside. I think a lot of people got to see Palmetto and what we are proud of.”
Groover Bryant did receive complaints from Palmetto residents that the Green Bridge had to be closed during the regatta.
“I got some of that but for the most part it was very positive,” Groover Bryant said.
As for Mayor Wayne Poston of Bradenton, he was seen giving Fetchko a bear hug on Saturday night, which seemed to reveal his take on the event better than words.
“He told me, ‘Go clean up,’” Fetchco said of Poston. “I was dirty and sweaty from a great day.”
A few flubs and acts of nature
If spectators wondered why the main event started about 15 minutes late Saturday, Fetchko said it was because the marine observers, looking out for dolphins, sea turtles and manatees from circling helicopters, saw two manatees swimming through the course just before the green flag.
“No one knew what was going on except for me and a few others,” Fetchko said. “Fortunately, the pair of manatees were heading west and we just had to wait for them to swim through.”
As far as flubs, the Green Bridge closed at 5:30 p.m. Saturday to pedestrians in preparation for the fireworks on the bridge at which time the free trolleys stopped running people back and forth between Palmetto and Bradenton.
“Some people found themselves stuck on either the Bradenton or Palmetto sides with their vehicles on the other side,” Fetchco said. “We could have done a better job telling people when the bridge would close and the trolleys stop.”
If the stranded spectators didn’t take a water taxi, they had to wait until after the fireworks and fencing were all taken down from the bridge to get to the other side, a very long wait.
Fetchko said there were no arrests or even serious incidents on the Bradenton side of the river.
“Our police chief started releasing his people early,” Groover Bryant said. “There were no incidents north of the river.”