It’s one of the perks of living near the water: Viewing lines of boats bearing holiday lights, Santa figures, snowmen, and even Peanuts and Grinch characters while crew members dance to blaring Christmas carols.
No northern transplant can ever forget their first exposure to the awesome spectacle of the holiday boat parade, and December, of course, brings the parade season to our local waters.
Generally, participants wind through the residential channels throughout beach communities, with dates staggered to allow captains to participate in more than one. There are typically various prizes of gifts and cash for creativity depending on size of the boat, and after-parties can get spirited.
Some municipalities have canceled their events because of the pandemic, including Clearwater, Dunedin and New Port Richey, but others are making adjustments.
“We’re very excited to continue hosting the Redington Beaches-Indian Shores boat parade for 2020 and many years to come,” said Militza Casasnovas, general manager of Caddy’s-Indian Shores. Instead of the traditional buffet provided for participating boat crews in that parade on Dec. 13, Caddy’s will distribute boxed meals as a precaution.
Participating cities and towns typically provide route maps on their municipal websites. Here is additional information on local parades:
Friday, Dec. 4
The Tarpon Springs Recreation Division will hold the annual Holiday Boat Parade from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Boats will cast off from Tarpon Landing Marina, parade through the Anclote River and bayous and pass the mermaid in Craig Park for judging at approximately 7:30 pm with return to port at 8:00 pm.
Public viewing: Craig Park/Spring Bayou.
Saturday, Dec. 5
The annual Treasure Island Holiday Lighted Boat Parade begins south of the Treasure Island Bridge in the Intracoastal Waterway at 6:20 p.m. The route travels south of Paradise Island, back north through the Treasure Island Causeway Bridge at 7pm, around Isles of Palms and Capri, and finishes at John’s Pass at approximately 8:15 p.m.
Public viewing: Blind Pass Bridge between Treasure Island and St. Pete Beach; Treasure Bay recreation facility; Treasure Island Causeway Bridge; Treasure Island Causeway at Fusion & St. James; 115th Avenue on Isle of Palms; or John’s Pass.
An awards party featuring results and prizes follows the parade at 9 p.m. at The Club TI pool pavilion.
Saturday, Dec. 12
The annual Festival of Lights Boat Parade starts after a tree-lighting at ROC Park, 200 Rex Place, at 6:30 p.m. and winds south through neighborhoods to end at John’s Pass Village.
Public viewing: ROC Park, Bicentennial Park, city-owned pocket parks along Boca Ciega Avenue, Bay Point Causeway Park and John’s Pass Village boardwalk.
The Boca Ciega Yacht Club presents its annual Lighted Christmas Boat Parade starting at 6:30 p.m. The parade starts at the Gulfport Municipal Marina and passes by the BCYC clubhouse into the bay. Boats pass Gulfport's Williams Pier and the beach, passing by the Gulfport Casino. They make way through the communities of Town Shores, Skimmers Point, Pelican Bay, past Kipps Colony and the Pasadena Yacht & Country Club, then to the Pasadena Golf Club Estates.
Public viewing: Osgood Point, Gulfport Municipal Marina, Williams Pier, Gulfport Casino and beach.
Sunday, Dec. 13
Redington Beaches/Indian Shores
Boats will rendezvous just north of the Tom Stuart (Madeira Beach) Causeway for the 6 p.m. start of the Redington Beaches and Indian Shores Holiday Boat Parade. As in previous years, the boats will follow the Intracoastal Waterway from just north of the causeway through Redington Beach, North Redington Beach and Redington Shores to Caddy’s in Indian Shores. Boats will meander into the creeks and canals that branch off the Intracoastal, passing along the shoreline of each of the participating communities. The awards ceremony will take place at Caddy’s, the major sponsor of the parade.
Public viewing: County boat launch/park, Indian Shores Town Hall.
Saturday, Dec. 19
Indian Rocks Beach
The IRB Holiday Lighted Boat Parade begins at 7 p.m. with boats gathering at the Holiday Inn Harbourside. It runs north under the Walsingham Road/S.R. 688 bridge – the bridge will remain closed, so sailboats will need to stage north of there — and weave throughout the channels ending at Harbor Drive North.
Public viewing: Holiday Inn Harbourside, 15th Avenue boat ramp.