ENGLEWOOD — You can almost hear the rumble of the powerful boat motors.

Fifty or more racing teams are expected to arrive in Englewood this week to compete for the Offshore Powerboat Association’s World Championships, decided in the sixth Annual Englewood Beach Waterfest.

Racing is set for Saturday and Sunday off Manasota Key with public viewing at Englewood Beach. There’s also a block party Friday night where fans can get close-up looks at the boats and mingle with the race crews.

“A lot of fast boats and fast racing,” said Ed “Smithy” Smith, the association’s president, when asked what spectators should expect.

He anticipates 60 or more races offshore. Two years ago, Englewood broke a 20-year OPA record when 75 boats raced off Manasota Key.

Following a year off for the pandemic, Smith has been encouraged by the enthusiastic crowds at prior events this season, including off the coasts of Sarasota and Lee County earlier this year.

Englewood has become a major highlight for the racing teams, Smith said. Because of the area’s affordability, many racers and teams will bring their families to Englewood for the racing and a vacation.

“They really look forward to Englewood,” he said.

As in previous years, no public parking is available on the racing days at Englewood Beach. Instead, free parking and bus service will be provided for race-goers. Parking areas include the Englewood Elks, Lemon Bay High and the Englewood Shopping Center (Obee’s).

MORE THAN RACING

Steve Gardinier said plans for Waterfest planning is moving along well. Gardinier is the president of the all-volunteer Englewood Beach Waterfest board.


Based on previous years, Gardinier said the races could see crowds of 15,000 or more, counting those who watch from boats offshore or from the lanais of beach-front homes and resorts.

Gardinier wanted to remind people the festivities include more than boat racing.

He invited the public to attend the Power Up Pre-Race Party from 5 p.m to 10 p.m. Thursday at Stump Pass Marina’s Lighthouse Grille, 260 Maryland Ave., off Placida Road.

Then, too, there’s the popular Waterfest Block Party, scheduled for 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, where the public can see the power boats close up and meet the racing team, as well as enjoying various refreshments and foods.

This year, due to road construction on West Dearborn Street, the block party will be held at the Englewood shopping center, 262 S. Indiana Ave., between West Cowles Street and Palm Grove Ave. It’s free. Food and drink vendors will be onsite.

Smith said the racing teams enjoy mingling with the residents and fans at the block party.

At the races themselves, various food and other vendors will be serving the public at Race Village at Englewood Beach. Mote Marine Laboratory will stage its Family Conservation Center.

Waterfest is totally a volunteer effort — even the organizers donate their time. The Waterfest events would not be possible if it weren’t for the 400 or more volunteers.

To learn more about Waterfest, visit englewoodbeachwaterfest.com. Tickets are $20 at the website until 5 p.m. Thursday. Tickets at the gate are $25. Like Englewood Beach Waterfest on Facebook for updated information.

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