Behind the scenes of the Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix


SARASOTA – To think, what many people call the Indy 500 of powerboat racing, began as a simple trip to the beach.

“This festival started back in 1985. There was a group of businessman, primarily from the construction industry, that got together every year. They would take special needs children for a beach picnic, out to the beach,” Festival Director Lucy Nicandri says.

Lead by the late Gene Whipp, the race initially went from St. Pete all the way to Venice. A vision turned into reality.

“Since that year, it’s grown into what started as a boat race on a weekend, into a 12-day festival. And that includes the 4th of July fireworks,” Nicandri says.

That festival is in partnership with the Suncoast Charities for Children. And mind you, they only have two paid employees. Nicandri is one of them and, needless to say, there to do list outnumbers their staff.

“Our responsibility, my responsibility primarily is, securing sponsorships, handling media relations, pulling all the permits, making sure our environmental safety plans are put together, our after action reports, economic impact reports. So, it is a year–long process with all those components,” Nicandri says.

The help of over 500 volunteers is a big reason this event is entering its 33rd year. So what brings people back? Why is this so important to the Suncoast?

“It’s one thing to have an event and a race, but it’s another thing to have an event and a race like this that benefits such a great cause. You can actually go out and see the impact it’s making, it’s tangible. The money is staying here locally. So, you can show donors, show sponsors, show your volunteers where that impact is going,” Nicandri says.

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