Did you know that Key West, Fla.—arguably the top destination in the go-fast boating world— is celebrating its 200th birthday today? According to the Key West Bicentennial website, John Simonton purchased the island from Juan Pablo Salas in 1882 and settled there with several other merchants.
Long before Duval Street reached its current state of being, Key West, Fla., was the place to be in the go-fast boating world. Photo from the 2021 Key West Offshore World Championships by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.
“Following soon was Lt. Matthew C. Perry who planted the United States flag on the island on March 25, 1822, claiming it as American soil,” the text on the official website for celebration reads. “This solidified Key West’s special place in history and has given the island reason to commemorate its Bicentennial in 2022.”
Long since then, Key West has built its own thriving go-fast boating community and hosted 40 years of world championship offshore powerboat races. And to help the city celebrate that part of its legacy, Key West-based Race World Offshore, which is entering its third year of producing the American Power Boat Association and now Union Internationale Motonautique World Championships, and the thriving Key Island Runners group are getting into the party spirit.
On Saturday, Race World Offshore will have a stage set up in Truman Annex Waterfront Park with entertainment from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.
“We are one of the major sponsors of the bicentennial celebration,” said Larry Bleil, the head of Race World Offshore. “We are donating the stage with (Florida-based concert promoter) AAG with the big reader-board we ran the livestream on during the 2021 world championships.”
Key Island Runners founder Daniel Garcia, III, who was born and raised in Key West, is working in concert with Bleil and others.
Garcia’s 24-foot Progression sportboat will be displayed alongside the stage in Truman Annex Waterfront Park.
“We will have Keys Island Runners merchandise for sale with my 24-foot Progression on display,” said Garcia. “Race World Offshore will have a new local Bracket 600-class raceboat on display next to the stage. It’s a 24-foot Baja Outlaw. The team is called Powerhouse Racing, and the boat is owned by Nelson Sawyer, who will drive. David Demeza will be on the throttles.”
“Basically, it’s a 200th anniversary party to celebrate Key West and recognizing all the different functions that Key West annually has to offer,” he continued. “In our case, Keys Island Runners and Race World Offshore are both local organizations that keep high-performance boating alive in Key West.”
Saturday’s celebration in Key West will provide a showcase for the new and locally based Powerhouse Racing team.
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