St. Pete Grand Prix kicks off tonight with Illuminated Night Parade

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This weekend marks the beginning of the St. Petersburg Grand Prix, and Mayor Rick Kriseman kicks off the party by hosting 2014’s Firestone Grand Prix Illuminated Night Parade.

Festivities feature a number of world-class IndyCar Series drivers as well as floats, marching bands, beauty queens and more.

The event begins Thursday, March 27, at 6 p.m., with the Harvey’s 5K and one-mile road race along the parade route on the city’s waterfront.

Afterward, the streets light up at 7:30 p.m. as the city celebrates the 10-year anniversary of Grand Prix racing in St. Petersburg with the Verizon IndyCar Series season-opening Firestone Grand Prix March 28-30.

Harvey’s 5K and one-mile course starts 6:10 p.m. at Fourth Ave. NE and Beach Dr.  The route proceeds along Beach Dr. to First Ave. N., south on Second St. N., and west on Central Ave. to Fourth Ave. N. before reversing direction to head east on Central Ave. The race then re-traces the path back to North Straub Park and the finish line.

Proceeds from the race will benefit art and music programs in Pinellas County schools.

At 7:30 p.m., the Firestone Grand Prix Illuminated Night Parade begins at Central Avenue and 5th Street, travel east on Central Avenue, then head north on 2nd Street, east on 1st Ave North, and north on Beach Drive to 5th Avenue North before proceeding east on Seventh Ave. N., finishing at North Shore Dr.

A number of streets will close downtown at 4:30 p.m. for the schedule of events, and parking restrictions in place until about 10 p.m. Spectator seating is available for both the Harvey’s 5K and Illuminated Night parade

Admission is free, and is first-come, first-served.

Suggested spectator parking for Thursday night’s events is available at the MidCore/Sundial garage (117 Second St. N.) or the South Core garage, (100 First Ave. S.). Normal evening parking rates apply.

For more information about Thursday night’s events, visit suncoasters-stpete.com. A list of what is going on this weekend at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is available at stpete.org/grandprix/ or gpstpete.com.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.