Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix's inaugural Fan Fest a success

Event outside Van Wezel continues 10 a.m. Sunday

SARASOTA — Chad Harris wasn’t surprised to see the Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix Festival’s inaugural Fan Fest packed half an hour after it began at 10 a.m. Saturday. 

“Sarasota is like that,” said Harris, who moved to the area three years ago. “People seem to love to come out to community events.” 

Part of the 33rd annual event most famous for the power boat races off Lido Beach, which started today and continue Sunday, Fan Fest was held under a large white tent near the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall on the bayfront and featured vendors of all types — including ones selling food, hats and fishing gear. Fan Fest also featured live music, the return of the popular bikini contest that went on hiatus last year and a large screen so that event-goers could watch the races. 

Harris, who went to the fest with his parents, as well as his 2-month-old son Mason and his 16-month-old daughter Madelyn, said he loved the experience. 

After the “Oh God, am I going to find parking?” moment he had upon arriving, Harris walked around for a bit and then sat down to watch the races on the screen under the tent, trying to keep his babies cool while his parents fanned them with pamphlets. 

“As far as family oriented events go, you can’t beat this,” the 42-year-old said. “I’m an old guy, so I like it laid-back.” 

Harris said his favorite part of the event was that it featured local vendors, since he wasn’t familiar with any of them. 

“I don’t get out a lot, so I was grabbing business cards left and right,” he said. 

Aziza Karteron, a vendor from St. Petersburg, arrived at 8 a.m. to set up her two tents: Scentsy, which carries wax smells, and Origami Owl, which offers jewelry. 

Karteron said she loved the police support. Marked cars blocked off streets and officers patrolled the event. 

“I’ve been to several of these events, and it’s not always like that,” she said. “Here, I’m able to keep everything here and not worry about theft or anything like that.” 

Tim Mott, who’s part of the Sons of Arthritis bike club in Bradenton, rode his Harley Davidson at 10 a.m. to the event. He said he’s been attending the powerboat races for about 30 years, enjoying witnessing the boats’ speed.

Mott said he usually comes to the event with friends and likes it because it reminds him of the adrenaline rush he gets from his motorcycle. 

“We drink beer, we watch pretty women, and we check out the boats,” he said.  

Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix Festival’s Fan Fest, which is free, continues Sunday at 10 a.m. outside the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, 777 N. Tamiami Trail.  

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Craig Ballantyne

I love anything to do with Harley Davidson and have two beautiful children and a beautiful partner. In my spare time i like building websites and love anything to do with the internet.

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