This week will bring one of the most action-packed and entertaining times that Boca Grande has seen in quite awhile. It is the World’s Richest Tarpon Tournament on May 23 and 24, the Gasparilla Island Kids Classic on May 25, and Tarpon Festival Weekend downtown.
Lew Hastings, the executive director of the Boca Grande Chamber of Commerce, is more than a little excited about the upcoming festivities. The chamber coordinates the WRTT, as well as the street festival.
“We have 27 boats in the tournament so far, but there are more entries still coming in,” he said. “We’re going to get some last-minute boats, and expect to exceed the 33 boats we had last year.
“But that’s not the most exciting part. We have more entertainment planned at the street festival than we ever had before. We have probably tripled our sponsorship from last year, and with that being said, people have called us wanting to be involved. I didn’t even have to seek them out. I think for the second year out since the hiatus, it’s a significant change. This is going to be an even bigger and better year, and we’re going to continue to build on this year after year.
“This is a true community event. We’ve had almost all the local businesses involved in this in some way ... and that means a lot to us. We couldn’t do it without them.”
Last year Capt. Willie Mills and his team on the Tracy Lynn took first place. Capt. Wayne Joiner and his team on Hey, Moma! took second and Team CCM Graphic and Capt. Matt Coleman took third.
On Wednesday, May 22 from 6 to 9:30 p.m., the WRTT Captain’s Party will be held at the Coral Creek Airport. All captains and team leaders are asked to attend the meeting to review the rules and pick up tournament gear.
The first day of tournament action in Boca Grande Pass will begin on Thursday at 3 p.m. Fishing will continue until 7 p.m. On Friday, fishing will also take place from 3 to 7 p.m., and the awards party will be held at 8:30 p.m. in downtown Boca Grande, at the street festival.
View More images >>The street festival begins on Friday at 12 p.m. and will continue on that day until 10 p.m. Musical performances will be by the Trinity River Band, Alyssa Gregory and Colton James. James will bring a special guest with him, musician and songwriter Kim Tribble. James and Tribble will perform just after the awards ceremony.
Saturday’s musical performances will be by the Boca Bande, Alyssa Gregory and the Grayson Rogers Band. There will also be a kid’s carnival from 12 to 4 p.m. at the Boca Grande Community Center.
On both days Carroll Swayze’s Boca Grande Invitational Art Festival will be held. It will include 65 of the best marine artists and craftsmen in the country, and has become a much-anticipated event for art connoisseurs.
Saturday will also bring the biggest kid’s fishing tournament in the world, the third annual Gasparilla Island Kids Classic. Created and coordinated by Capt. Sandy Melvin of Gasparilla Outfitters fame, the tournament is held to make money for charitable causes and to allow the community’s children to enjoy a world-class tarpon tournament of their own. This year, proceeds from the tournament will go to the Families First program at Moffitt Cancer Center, a program initiated to help parents and their children as they adjust to the changes that occur within the family when a parent has cancer. The music therapy program at All-Children’s Hospital will also receive donations from the tournament. That program uses music to achieve specific goals in helping children and families cope with pain, stress, fear and just being in the hospital.
Last year’s tournament raised more than $30,000 for Families First, which was a huge gift in the eyes of the children who benefit from that program.
So far, 24 boats are signed up.
The event will be filmed for the World Fishing Network, and the tournament will air on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. It will also be simulcast on WENG 107.5 FM, for those who wish to hear the tarpon fishing action live. World-class anglers Brent Chapman, Bobby Lane, Randy Howell and Aaron Martens will also be on hand to help with commentary and to cheer the kids on.
The awards ceremony will take place downtown at approximately 8 p.m.
Also, the chamber expects the new cameras at the Port Boca Grande Lighthouse to be up and running for all of the tournament action.
“Sandy Melvin’s proceeds from the GIFT Tournament paid for the cameras, and the state gave permission for us to put the cameras on the historic lighthouse,” Hastings said. “It’s also great for watching sunsets.”
Go to bocagrandechamber.com and look on the home page for the camera views.
For more information on the World’s Richest Tournament or the street festival, call the chamber office at 964-0568. For more information on the Gasparilla Island Kids Classic, contact Gasparilla Outfitters at 964-0907.
On the web you can go to worldsrichesttarpon.com, or on Facebook search “Carroll Swayze’s Boca Grande Invitational Art Festival,” or “World’s Richest Tarpon Tournament.”
This is the second year that the Boca Grande Area Chamber of Commerce has coordinated the World’s Richest tournament since their hiatus of seven years, during which time the Boca Grande Fishing Guides Association took over the tournament. The members of the BGFGA still assist with and participate in the tournament.
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