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Weekend Adventures in Bradenton, July 2-4


BRADENTON -- It's fourth of July, and that means boat races and fireworks. Don't worry, you don't have to sacrifice a limb or even a useful digit to impress the kids. The area has plenty of top-notch firework displays. Grab your Roman candles, bottle rockets, scooter sticks, snicker bombs, pineapples, finger blasters, whisker biscuits, gut busters, party poppers, bumblebees, pistol pops, candy crackers, and magic whips. It's time to go on a 4th of July Weekend Adventure in Bradenton.

The south knows fireworks! While growing up in PA, I grew wide-eyed and slack jawed during my family's first (and only) pilgrimage to Orlando. Starting in Virginia, I-95 seemed to be one long corridor expressly built for the amateur fireworks trade. Billboard after billboard would promote various firework super centers and anytime we'd veer off for gas, the service roads were lined with roadside stands selling the sort of stuff that only the children of long-haul truckers could score back home.

I thought that perhaps community firework shows didn't exist in the south, considering the kind of arsenal you could score in any given gas station parking lot. But when I moved here, I learned that such explosives were only appetizers and that the gulf coast hosted some of the best firework ensembles in the U.S.

I also found out that it was a tradition to round up all of the fastest boats in the world and race them at ridiculous speeds, while spectators get drunk in the hot sun. I knew then that this was my kind of place.  Beer, bikinis, barbecues, baseball, fireworks, speed boats, and more. This is the ultimate weekend adventure.

Friday, July 2

Check out the World's Fastest Boats

The super boats will be on display from 10 a.m. until 9 p.m. in the area adjacent to Van Weizel. There will be a full day of live music and a chance to get up close and personal with the boats that will be zipping across the gulf at deadly speeds. Admission is free and there will be food and drink vendors on site.

Powerboats by the Bay

10 a.m. until 9 p.m.
Centennial Park
10th Street

Click here for the complete schedule of Suncoast Super Boat Grand Prix events

Early Fireworks!

The Ed Chiles Restaurant Group will once again put on a dazzling display of fireworks over the water, with a different show for each night, each at a different restaurant. The Mar Vista Dockside Restaurant kicks it off with a bay side show Friday night on the very north end of Longboat Key. The restaurant's private 12-slip dock allows boaters to pull up and enjoy the show. Reservations are recommended. The show is cosponsored by neighboring joints; Moore's Stone Crab, Cannons Marina, and the Longboat Key Club.

Boom Boom on the Bay
Mar Vista Dockside Restaurant
760 Broadway Street
Longboat Key

Offshore Party at the Hyatt

There are plenty of high-roller events this weekend, but you can still see and be seen without maxing out your plastic. Get over to the Hyatt and party with the boat race crews. $15 gets you in and there's a cash bar and menu available. Live music will be provided by "My Friend Scott." Dress is casual.

World's Largest Offshore Party

8:00 p.m. - 1:00 a.m.

Hyatt Regency Ballroom
100 Boulevard of the Arts

Saturday, July 3

Bikinis on the Bay

You can't have a boat race without a bikini contest, you just can't. Get back over to Centennial Park for the annual "Miss Superboat Grand Prix Biki Contest."

Miss Superboat Grand Prix Biki Contest
Judging at 3 p.m.
Centennial Park
10th Street

Fireworks on the Beach

On Saturday, Chiles moves the party up the coast to Bradenton Beach. The Beach House hosts its 17th annual firework's show on July 3rd. The upscale restaurant's expansive deck provides the perfect viewing platform, or just put a blanket on the beach. Valet parking is available, though limited. For information on VIP packages contact Shawn Rhoton at 941.778.8718.

The Beach House
200 Gulf Drive North
Bradenton Beach

Sunday, July 4

You don't have to look far to find things to do on the big day. There are fireworks scheduled all over the area and plenty of daylight festivities to help you make a day of it.

Photo by Dara Caudill, Island Photography

SARASOTA: Watch the Grand Prix Sunday afternoon from Siesta Key, then stick around for the show. Siesta will have its annual fireworks bonanza at dusk, or head up to the mainland and watch the other show from the downtown Marina at Bayfront Park, starting at 8 p.m.

BRADENTON: Bradenton will have a downtown fireworks celebration on old Main Street. The pre-fireworks block party starts at 5 p.m. and the big show starts at night fall. There will also be a giant fireworks display following the Marauder game at McKechnie Field. The game starts at 6 p.m. with fireworks to follow immediately after.  

PALMETTO: The Green Bridge Fireworks Extravaganza can be seen from either end. There will be all day festivities starting at 11:30 a.m.

ANNA MARIA ISLAND: The Privateers will roll out their pirate ship and begin their annual parade at 10 a.m on Coquina Beach. That night, the Chiles Group wraps up their three-day celebration with a grand finale at the Sandbar on the north end of Anna Maria Island. The restaurant's special events pavillion will be open to the public all-day, so they can grab a sandwich or a cool drink for their beach blanket view. An upscale buffet and cocktails will be available under the VIP pavilion starting at 7:30 p.m. Contact Janice Bergbom for VIP ticket information at 941.778.8710


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