ST. PETERSBURG — As the Festival of States and the Honda Grand Prix converge in St. Petersburg over the next several days, negotiating downtown will present challenges for the rest of us, but both organizations saw opportunities to cooperate with and benefit from each other.
Michael Andretti, who won 42 races during his professional driving career and has more than 30 additional victories as a team owner, is grand marshal of the Illuminated Night Parade on Thursday, and IndyCar Series and American LeMans Series drivers also will be part of the event.
"Through his involvement with the Honda Grand Prix, Michael has become a well-known personality in St. Petersburg," festival executive director Rick McCollum said, "and we're looking forward to having him lead another great parade through our beautiful downtown."
Because of barricades in place for the temporary street circuit, the parade has a different route than in some previous years. It begins at 7 p.m. Thursday and travels east from Central Avenue and Fifth Street, north on Second Street, east on First Avenue, then north on Beach Drive to Fifth Avenue N. There will be a fireworks display immediately afterward.
Saturday market closed
The popular weekly Saturday Morning Market will be closed for the next two Saturdays to accommodate the Grand Prix and the Festival of States annual Day Parade, which takes place April 12.
In another departure from custom, the Harvey's 5K Festival Run begins at 7 a.m. on April 12 in North Straub Park. Traditionally, it has been an evening event that precedes the Illuminated Night Parade.
From Thursday through Sunday, from 8 a.m. to dusk, drivers will compete on a 14-turn race circuit along the waterfront and on a runway at Albert Whitted Airport.
Friday evening, the monthly Breakfast Optimist "Get Downtown" street party becomes "Fast Friday," in a nod to the race. Hours for that event are 5:30 to 10 p.m. along Central Avenue between Second and Third streets N.