As they have for the past five years, organizer Ryan Beckley of Sarasota, Fla., and performance-boat enthusiasts from around the country won’t be spending time on the couch watching college football bowl games on New Year’s Day. Instead, they’ll be running by boat to lunch at the Blu Mangrove Grill Restaurant on the Manatee River in Palmetto for the Sixth Annual Joey Gratton Memorial New Year’s Day Fun Run. The relatively short 26-mile (one-way) trek by water from the 10th Street Boat Ramp in Sarasota to the lunch venue celebrates the life of local offshore powerboat racer Joey Gratton, who died after his boat rolled during the 2011 Super Boat International World Championships in Key West.
Said organizer Beckley, “The run is fun, free and a good excuse to see old friends and make some new ones.” Photo from 2016 Joey Gratton New Year’s Day Memorial Fun Run courtesy/copyright Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.
Gratton’s sons, Blake and Brock, and his widow, Priscilla, will attend this year, as they have since the event was renamed in honor of the beloved longtime member of the offshore racing community. The run starts at noon. Beckley said that weather allowing he expects to match last year’s record-high turnout of the 80 boats.
“We have a bunch of people making plans to come,” said Beckley. “We have boats coming from the Lake of the Ozarks, New Hampshire, New York, Michigan and all over Florida. We just had a guy from Maryland drop off his boat at my shop—we’re here at the shop working to get boats ready for the run right now. The weather report for Jan. 1 is 79 degrees and with winds from the south-southeast at 12 mph.”
There is no entry fee for the casual daylong event. Attendees without boat rides are encouraged to come by car and join the festivities.
“The run is fun, free and a good excuse to see old friends and make some new ones,” said Beckley. “And we are doing our party at New Year’s Eve at the Kinetic Animation shop. Bring your favorite bottle and a bag of ice.”
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