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2014 Suncoast Super Boat Grand Prix: Everyone's Party

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See the schedule, photo galleries and more on our Suncoast Super Boat Grand Prix page.

For many of you, I don’t need to explain why the annual Suncoast Super Boat Grand Prix is one of the biggest – and possibly best – events of year. Some people need a little convincing, however.

Suncoast Superboat Grand Prix races are off Lido Beach Sunday. Staff Photo

Suncoast Superboat Grand Prix races are off Lido Beach Sunday. Staff Photo

True, the Grand Prix doesn’t bring in thousands of people from outside the area to fill hotel rooms like some of the rowing events that have come to Benderson Park, just the crews and supporters of 30 or so registered boats, as well as some die-hard super boat fans willing to make a trek to see the races. The Grand Prix isn’t an international spectacle broadcast on televisions across the world like the recent Modern Pentathlon World Cup, unless you count web streaming of the races on Superboat.com.

The Grand Prix’s economic impact on the area is difficult to measure, since the event always takes place over Independence Day week. According to the organizers, the 2013 Grand Prix generated an estimated $17 million in economic impact for the area, but it’s hard to tell if people are renting hotel rooms, eating out, buying beer and shopping in stores because the races, or just because of the holiday.

Then there’s the money generated for Suncoast Charities for Children by the Grand Prix, a little over $100,000 just last year, which benefits a variety of local non-profits that focus on children with special needs.

(left to right) Janet Layug, Jessica Barton and Tina Herrera compete in the "Miss Super Boat Grand Prix Bikini Contest". (July 3, 2010)--(Sarasota Herald-Tribune staff photo by Thomas Bender)

(left to right) Janet Layug, Jessica Barton and Tina Herrera compete in the "Miss Super Boat Grand Prix Bikini Contest". (July 3, 2010)--(Sarasota Herald-Tribune staff photo by Thomas Bender)

Thing is, the vast majority of people who have enjoyed the Grand Prix over the past 29 years could care less about how many hotel room nights were booked because of the race or how much the event raised the profile of Sarasota as a tourist destination.

For us, it’s a party. The party.

And, unlike many of the most publicized and vaunted events put on in Sarasota throughout the year, much of the Grand Prix is free. The car show, the parade, the block party, the fireworks, Super Boats by the Bay, the bikini contest and the races themselves are all free. Cross off the golf and poker tournaments and Tuesday night’s gala, and you won’t pay more than $10 for any of the 10 or so other events slated for the week-long festival.

Variety also plays into the Grand Prix’s popularity, with events during night and day, geared to adults and children, easily adaptable to your particular partying style. Some people want to drink beer and watch live music, some people want to gaze at massive engines and svelte hulls, some people want to see women in bathing suits take advantage of their genetic (or surgical) gifts, some people want to support charity and drink cocktails with their well-heeled pals, some people want to pack a tractor-trailer’s worth of beach paraphernalia into an SUV and construct a party palace on the sand that probably rivals their actual homes.

Fireworks_July_2012_Vertical_BenderThe Grand Prix has that, and more. Mostly for free. With fireworks. During a holiday week that already gives you an excuse to have a party.

For people who want to have a good time, the Grand Prix is an enabler that crosses social and economic lines and brings together huge swathes of the community, from trailer-park denizens to yacht-owners, from beach beer drinkers to the gala regulars.

How will you celebrate?

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Brian Ries

Brian Ries is the editor of ticketsarasota.com.
Last modified: June 26, 2014
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