BRADENTON -- Well over 20 years ago, boats awash in Christmas decorations cruised down the Braden River in a holiday boat parade. Spectators watched from the river's edge. It was an affair that the people looked forward to each year.
But there hasn't been a boat parade since the early '90s. And members of the Old Braden River Historical Society are trying to bring back the tradition.
The Braden River Boat Parade returns at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 8 at Jiggs Landing, 6106 63rd St E.
"The residents miss it, yearn for it," said Denise Kleiner, president of the Historical Society, which aims to preserve the history of the Braden River.
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Only seven boats have been registered so far, Kleiner said. Organizers hope to gather a minimum of 12
boats to successfully pull off the event.
Heath Marston, 42, moved from the River Club neighborhood to a house on the river in June with his wife and three kids.
"We love the old Florida style of the community out here and how everyone is real friendly and outgoing," Marston said.
The Marston family started dressing up their 22-foot fishing boat Wednesday like a Christmas tree.
"We're going to decorate it with lights and ornaments and we're going to put stockings around it," Marston said.
There is no registration fee to enter a boat. Participants simply sign up and decorate their boat, kayak or canoe.
"It could be something as simple as a battery operated wreath," Kleiner said. "We're hoping people will contact us so we can help them decorate their boat."
Prizes will be awarded to the winners of five categories: Best in Show, Best Illuminated, Best Florida Cracker, Most Festive and Most Creative.
"We chose Florida cracker as a category because a lot of the houses that we live in (on the river) used to be fishing cabins from way back when," said Lori Dengler, Historical Society treasurer.
Spectators can also watch the event at Linger Lodge Restaurant and Campground, 7205 85th St. Court E., where a party will be held after the parade route ends there at 7:30 p.m.
Participants can register online at oldbradenriver.org or in person before 4 p.m. Dec. 8 at Jiggs Landing.