Riverfest: Wiener Dog Races, Tacos, and Lightening Playoffs.
What do you get when you mix Cinco de Mayo, major league hockey playoffs, and an annual party anchored at Curtis Hixon Park in downtown Tampa? Riverfest! This year's celebration covered the 2.3 miles of Tampa's Riverwalk including the new addition at the east end, Armature Works.
The two day event started off with a watch party and then celebration of a Lightning win over the Bruins in overtime in the fourth game of the hockey playoffs on Friday night. The excitement grew from there! Saturday brought events throughout the Riverwalk, Tampa's premier waterfront foot and biking path. Here's what it looked like through the lens.
Gasparilla Stand-up Paddle Board Invasion
Saturday's activities kicked off with a paddle board race from Waterworks Park out to the turnaround in front of the Tampa Convention Center. According to organizers there were between 150 and 175 racers participating in a 1K fun race, 5K recreational class, and a 10K elite class race. Folks who didn't have a paddle board could rent one at the park. The name of the race may be a little misleading because it wasn't just for stand up paddle boards. There were kayaks, canoes, and participants who race in the prone position (kneeling, using only their hands to propel).
Bubba Ellis is an animal. The 63-year-old raced in the elite division in the 10K, prone! That's the 6.2 miles- two laps of the course- on his knees using only his hands (no paddles) for propulsion. He used to race standing with paddles, but after an injury began to race prone.
Ninth Annual Weiner Dog Derby
What's not to like? They're WIENER DOGS! There were races, costume contests, and a kissing competition. It's hard to say which was more fun to watch, the dogs or the owners.
Riverfest fell on Cinco de Mayo this year so it made perfect sense to pump up the party with a taco festival. Being a foodie I couldn't wait. I had visions of events like the Mac and Cheese Throwdown where talented chefs put forth their best dishes. Taco Festival guests were invited to either buy a wristband for $10 for three tacos, or $15 for 5 tacos. Unfortunately the food wasn't very good. Organizers had one caterer who opened 10 different stations giving eaters several choices of ingredients. Given all of the food talent in the area, this could have been much better! It was a great idea but could have been better executed.
In Tampa we don't frequently get to see how talented music students and teachers are. Unless you are a parent with a kid in public school, rarely do we get to experience such remarkable youthful know-how. All day long Hillsborough County elementary schools presented Music Mayhem, a showcase of music programs at MacDill Park. There were a lot of oooo's and ahhhh's because they are so dang cute But seriously, it was quite entertaining!
Musical and More Music
What's a festival without great music? Throughout the day there were several musical acts stretching out all along the riverfront. Friends of the Riverwalk, organizers of the event, are to be commended on the caliber of talent of the groups who performed at Curtis Hixon. Well done!
Along with some brief periods of rain sending Riverfesters scrambling for cover, a fairly consistent breeze kicked up in the evening grounding the scheduled hot air balloon launch. Historically balloon glows in downtown Tampa have the aircraft tethered to the ground but rising several feet up with their gas fires illuminating the balloon creating a spectacular site with Tampa's beautiful downtown in the background. On Saturday night, even though the crafts were grounded, pilots still thrilled the crowd by gassing the burners. It was a pretty tight sight!