A wooden footbridge leading to the beach

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Spotlight on the Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix

One of the best reasons to spend the summer in Sarasota is to experience its Powerboat Grand Prix Festival, a major offshore race that takes place in the Gulf, held this year from June 23 to July 4.

Now in its 34th year, the Grand Prix is one of those events that locals and visitors alike look forward to as the summer approaches. It’s one way to start the season off with a splash and to feel good while doing it: all proceeds from the Grand Prix go to Suncoast Charities For Children. Though the showstopper events—the powerboat and personal craft races—fall on the weekend of June 30, there are a handful of other events held on either side of those dates that really give this festival its celebratory spirit.

The Kickoff Party gets things started off in grand form at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, the prelude to a week’s worth of events that ultimately culminates in a Bayfront Fireworks Spectacular at Island Park. Over the course of three days, the Boats By the Bay Fan Festival gives attendees the chance to watch the boats launch, view a livestream of the races and enjoy live music and food, all from the comfort of a tent. At Party In The Pits, you can mingle with the racers themselves (or meet them personally at Hyatt Regency’s autograph event). There’s even a personal watercraft Fun Run, nearly as action-packed as the powerboat races themselves.

Other events include the 3rd Annual Bob Rizi Memorial Golf Classic, held at The Meadows Country Club, a Classic Car Show at the Sarasota Fairgrounds and a Grand Prix Comedy Night at McCurdy’s Comedy Theatre. The Coastal Cruise Motorcycle Charity Ride is a jovial parade of bikes that are fun to watch as they zip through the city.

The six-and-a-half mile long powerboat race is the star of the show, of course, but this is a fun time to be in Sarasota or on Longboat Key.