The fifth annual Bradenton Area River Regatta is about to happen. Here’s what you need to know

Forecasters expect a comfortable 74 degrees on Feb. 9 for the fifth annual Bradenton Area River Regatta, which promises to bring a lot more racing action to the Manatee River this year.

The Powerboat Superleague’s Formula 2 racers kick off their season once again on the river and joining them for the first time will be the kickoff season for the league’s Formula 3 series.

Formula 2 boats can reach speeds in excess of 100 mph in five seconds, accelerating to top speeds of 120 mph. While the Formula 3 boats are slightly slower at 90 mph, the action is just as intense on a course drivers have to come love.

“The course is tight and there is a lot of action so we’ll be rocking and rolling,” said Formula 2 racer Fred Durr at a press conference at Pier 22 on Wednesday. “Racing a Formula boat is a lot like a Formula race car. It’s the most exciting sport you can find on the water.”

Powerboat Superleague co-owner Sam Winer said the series opener “is the Super Bowl of Superleague. We’ve done 182 events in our 33 years and and we’ve never had an event better attended than we do in Bradenton.”

In the background of the speakers, world champion flyboarder Kristin “The Destroyer” Smoyer showcased a few of her skills. Prior to hitting the water, Smoyer said this will be her fourth time performing at the regatta, missing only the inaugural event.

“Bradenton is such an exciting place to perform with the great views looking down from the (Green Bridge),” Smoyer said. “It’s a lot of fun flying up to the spectators and giving high fives. It’s such an amazing atmosphere and it’s a different vibe than anywhere else I perform.”

Ironically, Smoyer said she never imagined flyboarding would become her passion.

“My two biggest fears are drowning and heights. I used to work building docks and someone I worked with asked me to give it a try and at first I said no way, but when I did, I didn’t realize how much fun it would be.”

Here’s what’s happening

The free DeSoto Little Anglers Fishing Tourney for children kicks off the day at 8:30 a.m. on the Palmetto fishing pier. Due to downtown construction, the annual St. Stephens 5K run has been canceled, but activities pick up again at 10 a.m. with Formula 2 and 3 beginning test runs. Qualifying heats begin around noon and championship races take the green flag at 3 p.m.

Entertainment on both sides of the river kicks off at 10 a.m., including the chance to view and interact with vintage powerboats from the 1930s and 1940s at the Riverside Park boat ramp in Palmetto. Food, dog Frisbee shows, dog stunt shows and family fun zones all return to the regatta on both sides of the river. The Desoto beer garden will operate in Palmetto.

Free shuttle service will be available to cross the Green Bridge between the two cities. The bridge is expected to close to traffic at 4 a.m. on that Saturday and will remain closed throughout the day, but will remain open to pedestrians throughout the event. Racing and fireworks viewing for the Zambelli International Fireworks show will be available from the bridge, with the show starting at around 6:45 p.m.

Music also begins on both sides of the river beginning at noon. Performers will include Sam Woolf and headliners We The Kings. Other performers also will take the stage in Palmetto.

For a full schedule and list of times visit bradentonarearegatta.com.

As many as 100,000 visitors are expected to attend the regatta throughout the day.

“We’re looking forward to another great event,” said Palmetto Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant. “There will be events on both sides of the river as usual and there will be shuttles so we want to make sure everybody that comes out can enjoy the events on both sides of the river. We want to welcome everybody that comes to this area to enjoy and have a great and safe day.”

The event is free to attend, as are all of the concerts and other shows along Riverwalk in Bradenton and Riverside Park in Palmetto.

Breaking News/Real Time Reporter Mark Young began his career in 1996 and has been with the Bradenton Herald since 2014. He has won more than a dozen awards over the years, including the coveted Lucy Morgan Award for In-Depth Reporting from the Florida Press Club and for beat reporting from the Society for Professional Journalists to name a few. His reporting experience is as diverse as the communities he covers.
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