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The Flame Keeps Burning

Despite the best intentions of their initial planners, most memorial events—at least in the go-fast powerboating world—are one and done. The powerful emotions that follow a death simply aren’t enough to sustain a memorial for more than one year, much less nine as is the case with the Joey Gratton Memorial New Year’s Day Fun Run, which with 100-plus boats yesterday saw the largest turnout in its history. Producing even the most casual event is a lot of work, and attendance requires commitment. People have busy lives and they tend to go on with them. It’s just part of being human.

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The Joey Gratton Memorial New Year’s Day Fun Run continues to grow. Here’s why. Photo courtesy/copyright Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.

So why does the Gratton event continue to grow beyond that Southwest Florida is one of the few locales with great boating conditions in January? The answer is a combination of tireless organizer, offshore racer and vinyl graphics expert Ryan Beckley, one incredible family and the close-knit yet welcoming and gracious boating community of Sarasota.

Among the most popular figures in the sport, Gratton died following a racing accident in November 2011 in Key West, Fla. For several years before his passing, Gratton and a few of his fellow Sarasotans had long-enjoyed a casual New Year’s Day tradition of boating to lunch. Back then, the run attracted a handful of boats, all of them local. Following Gratton’s death, Beckley, with support from many friends in the community, opted to name and produce the New Year’s Day happening in his honor.

Read More: The Flame Keeps Burning

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