Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Boat Parade Canceled; Block Party Goes on | Safety Costs and Downtown Construction Are Cited for Decision | Safety Costs and Downtown Construction Are Cited for Decision

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Boat Parade Canceled; Block Party Goes on | Safety Costs and Downtown Construction Are Cited for Decision | Safety Costs and Downtown Construction Are Cited for Decision

Article excerpt

POWERBOAT GRAND PRIX

SARASOTA -- The Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix will kick off this weekend with one major event missing from the lineup: the annual parade of boats.

With the rising costs of safety expenditures as well as potential conflicts with downtown construction, the boat parade wasn't as feasible this year, said Lucy Nicandri, executive director for Suncoast Charities for Children, which puts on the event.

The move, too, created the opportunity to extend the hours for the "Boats on Main" block party and give festivalgoers more

one-on-one time with the boats and their teams.

"They're going to be signing autographs and taking pictures," Nicandri said. "In the parade, you couldn't throw things to people. They were limited. We're trying to make it a more fan-friendly experience to get to know the teams."

The block party, which traditionally did not begin until after the parade, will begin at 6 p.m.

This is the second time this year that a Suncoast Charities- sponsored event has had to switch its plans.

The Grand Prix's sister event, Thunder By The Bay, made headlines this year when it met outcry from some businesses for closing off large sections of downtown. The conflict prompted a more than three- month debate about how the city should handle large events downtown.

The changes to the powerboat festival, however, are unrelated to Thunder By The Bay, Nicandri said.

The annual boat races began in 1985 and have since expanded into a 10-day festival. It is unclear when the boat parade joined the lineup, Nicandri said, but it's been a long-standing tradition.

The festival annually raises about $100,000 for Suncoast Charities for Children, and last year brought in an estimated economic impact of $32 million for the Sarasota area.

In the past two fiscal years, Suncoast Charities for Children has provided more than $234,000 in grant money to the Suncoast Foundation. That funding resurfaces in the community through projects in playground repairs, multi-sensory rooms, kitchen upgrades and transportation services for places such as Loveland Village, The Florida Center for Early Childhood, Children First and the Sarasota County Special Olympics.

Cutting out the parade this year and expanding the block party was a three-prong decision based on expenses and feasibility as well as the overall spectator and boater experience. …

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