Dozens of lighted boat parades dot the Florida waterways every December, including in Tarpon Springs (pictured here), Dunedin and Indian Rocks Beach. IRB’s 2021 Holiday Lighted Boat Parade is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 18, beginning at 7 p.m. near the Walsingham Bridge and winding its way north.

INDIAN ROCKS BEACH — The holiday season is typically a festive time of year in the Sunshine State, with the cool, clear weather combining with a variety of special events to provide plenty of fun, family-friendly options for residents and visitors alike.

In Indian Rocks Beach, a trio of longstanding holiday traditions are slated for the month of December, starting with the Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony Friday, Dec 3, followed by the Holiday Street Parade on Sunday, Dec. 5, and concluding with the IRB Holiday Lighted Boat Parade on the evening of Saturday, Dec. 18.

“The city of Indian Rocks Beach is looking forward to our holiday season,” Mayor Cookie Kennedy said via text days before the tree lighting, scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. at the park on the corner of 12th Avenue and Gulf Boulevard. “From our Christmas Tree Lighting on Friday, Dec. 3, to our Holiday Parade on Sunday, Dec. 5, and finishing with the boat parade on Dec. 18, our city and staff are grateful for the opportunity to host these signature events for our residents, families, and friends. We wish everyone a wonderful holiday and hope to see everyone at these events.”

Kennedy added they are looking forward to a strong turnout for the events following COVID-caused cancellations and/or attendance reductions in 2020, and shortly after the tree is lit signifying the official start of the holiday season, the city will gear up for its annual Holiday Street Parade, an eclectic procession scheduled to start on East Gulf Boulevard at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 5, and wind its way through the streets of the island’s “finger” neighborhoods before ending at Kolb Park.

“The city of Indian Rocks Beach hosts a city-wide Holiday Street Parade each year which includes local merchants, small floats and holiday music,” according to the Indian Rocks Rentals website, which notes the parade “runs through the neighborhood streets of the city and parade participants often throw candy, dog biscuits, and beads to the attendees along the parade route.”

And if the street parade isn’t enough fun, IRB’s annual Christmas Lighted Boat Parade rarely disappoints, as dozens of colorfully decorated sailing vessels converge south of the Holiday Inn just before dusk before heading north under the Walsingham Bridge, weaving their way through the fingers before finishing off at Harbor Drive North.

“Holiday boat parades are a Florida tradition,” Visit St Pete Clearwater states in a video on its website, noting waterways from Tarpon Springs to Dunedin to Treasure Island are filled with festively decorated vessels, from yachts to canoes, every year, and IRB is no different, with prizes being awarded to the top three finalists in three categories: 23 feet and under, 24 to 30 feet, and 31 feet-plus.

After being canceled in 2019 due to inclement weather and returning with a reduced capacity last year, city officials are expecting a larger turnout this year and are asking for patience while the Walsingham Bridge is closed for about 15 minutes at around 7 p.m. “We try to work it so we only have to close it once, so we keep the larger boats on the other side of the bridge,” Lorin Kornijtschuk said, noting the idea is to keep any traffic inconveniences to a minimum. Kornijtschuk said they currently have about 20 boats registered after having 38 entries last year, and she said they are “looking forward to a big return this year” while adding registration will remain open through the first week of December.