Riverwalk Festival Makes Waves



Mild breezes, clear skies and the cool, calm waters of the Manatee River welcomed festival-goers to the inaugural Bradenton Area Riverwalk Regatta. Billed as the largest public event in the history of Manatee County, the regatta drew in thousands of spectators and participants to a spectacular array of family-friendly shows and activities. The festival emerged through Bradenton’s sister-city relationship with Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which hosts the world-famous Pittsburgh Three Rivers Regatta, the country’s largest inland regatta and top venue on the powerboat racing circuit.

The morning started with a Falcon 5K race, a kids fishing tournament hosted by the DeSoto Historical Society, and Xpogo, an action sport involving riding and performing tricks on specially designed “extreme” pogo sticks. Xpogo athletes and Bradenton natives Ryan O'Malley amd Nick Ryan were excited to be performing before their home crowd.

By noon, more than 30,000 people had gathered on the Green Bridge for the highlight event, the Powerboat Superleague races. Formula Two powerboat drivers raced along a mile-long loop course with half-mile straightaways and hairpin turns on the Manatee River, a balancing act between flying and being on the water. The small boats unleash full-bore exhilaration accelerating from zero to 100 in under 6 second and powering through turns at top speed. Organizers made sure extra precaution was made to protect the wildlife that call the river home and monitored the area for any signs of manatees and dolphins.

The day continued with a K-9 Crew Frisbee dogs show, a BMX Chris Clark Stunt Show and food offerings from the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association and the Manatee County Arts Center's Art Gallery Row. The iconic Jefferson Starship headlined the concert stage at the festival. According to organizer Michael Dongilli, an estimated 100,000 attended the festival by the time the band performed in the late afternoon.

“I’ve never seen anything quite like this,” said longtime Manatee County resident Josh Scheible. “ [This festival] is a great opportunity to highlight what Bradenton really has to offer.” 

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