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Wacky races return to Palma Sola Bay at 38th annual De Soto Bottle Boat Regatta

Bottle boats compete in annual regatta on Palma Sola Bay

About 140 rowers participated in the 38th annual Bottle Boat Regatta hosted by the De Soto Historical Society April 13, 2019. The event attracted a larger crowd than usual as organizers continue to expand the family-friendly outing.
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About 140 rowers participated in the 38th annual Bottle Boat Regatta hosted by the De Soto Historical Society April 13, 2019. The event attracted a larger crowd than usual as organizers continue to expand the family-friendly outing.

The De Soto Historical Society took advantage of a beautiful Saturday morning to host the 38th annual Bottle Boat Regatta along the Palma Sola Causeway.

Organizers say they were able to register 16 teams this year and about 140 rowers. Together, they attracted a significant crowd of more than 500 people to cheer on their friends and family in a series of wacky races. That’s more than twice the attendance of last year’s regatta.

“This is definitely bigger than usual, but this is what we want,” said event chairman DJ Hager. “We’re trying to get it bigger and bigger and back to how it was when I was a kid.”

Among this year’s racers were the Palma Sola Shooting Stars, the Anna Maria Privateers and, of course, the De Soto Crewe. The Palmetto Youth Center also competed in the races for the first time this year.

Sarasota resident Suzanne Honeycutt attended the races as a spectator for the first time Saturday. She was impressed with her 11-year-old granddaughter’s performance while rowing for the Kinnan Elementary team but even more impressed by the quality of the event.

“It’s very nice and very organized. They did a good job, and I’ll definitely be back next year for more,” Honeycutt said.

Throughout the day, rowers climbed onto homemade boats made out of soda bottles or milk jugs and rowed parallel to the shore to cross the finish line. The waters were smooth, but the wind posed a challenge for both kids and adults alike.

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A team of elementary school students compete during the 2019 Bottle Boat Regatta Saturday morning. Ryan Callihan rcallihan@bradenton.com

“It’s a little windy out today, but that just creates an extra challenge for these guys,” Hager said.

Over the course of the event, some teams took strong leads only to fall behind after steering off track. Others began taking on water or capsized entirely. Either way, contestants had lots of fun as their fans cheered them on from the shore.

Also watching from the sidelines was Sarah Burt, of Lakewood Ranch, who came out Saturday to show support for friends racing in the adult series.

“We figured it’d be a hoot to come out and support them,” Burt said. “For me, it’s more fun to be a spectator.”

The Bottle Boat Regatta is part of a series of events leading up to the De Soto Grand Parade later this month. On Friday, the Historical Society will also host their annual Children’s Parade at Sutton Park in Palmetto. For more information, visit www.desotohq.com.

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