Sarasota, Florida -- Rowers are setting up for the Sarasota Invitational Regatta at Nathan Benderson Park and organizers say it's the largest turn out in the event's five-year history.
"We have 692 entries. Most regattas don't get anywhere near that," said regatta co-director Norm Thetford. "It's one of the largest regattas in the state, if not the country. And I think this is certainly one of the best in terms of infrastructure. We want the rowers to have a first-class experience."
Competitors representing 52 clubs from as far away as Washington, Indiana and New York will row head-to-head on the 400-acre lake at Nathan Benderson Park.
Rowers range from middle school students to the master's group. The Eight Grand crew is made up of ladies 60 years old and up.
Libby Beene is part of the crew.
"You can do this sport all your life. You should never think it's too late to be a competitor and it's never too late to be an athlete."
Four local rowing organizations -- Sarasota County Rowing Club Masters, Sarasota Scullers, Sarasota Crew, and Manatee Youth Rowing -- will compete in juniors, masters and adaptive races.
Tourism officials with Visit Sarasota estimate the regatta's economic impact for the area is about half a million dollars.
The event is open to the public. The full-day regatta begins at 8 a.m. and continues until 4 p.m. The venue can be accessed via University Parkway and North Cattleman Road off of I-75.
Grandstands, food vendors, and live broadcasted race information is available. Admission is free, but there is a $5 charge for parking on the regatta island.
Award ceremonies for the Champion of the Lake trophy begin at noon and 4 p.m. during Saturday's racing and at 1 p.m. Sunday. Middle school rowers will be recognized in a special award ceremony starting at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.
To learn more about the regatta, visit www.sarasotainvitational.com.
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