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Holiday Boat Parade lights up Manatee River

MANATEE — Boats decorated with Christmas lights glided through the Manatee River on a moonlit Friday night as a part of the 11th annual Holiday Boat Parade.

This year, 17 boats entered the parade, each with different lights and themes, and some with music and crews clad in costumes. Prizes were awarded to the most interesting.

Onlookers bundled up and gathered at different places along the river to watch the boats cruise by adorned with holiday gear.

A harvest moon accented a cold but otherwise perfect evening for warming up to the Christmas spirit.

Lynn Henneman, of Cortez, attended the event with friends and family members at the Bradenton Yacht Club.

“This is a great way to start the holiday season with Christmas lights and Christmas music,” she said. “I think each (boat) has shown a lot of work and individuality.”

One boat had two elves in lime green costumes trying to pull Santa out of the boat’s hole with his black boots kicking up in the air.

“I take my hat off to them. The forecast called for some pretty cold weather. They didn’t disappoint us. They came out here anyway,” Henneman said, before calling out “Merry Christmas” to an upcoming vessel.

Jack and Ann Lewis, of Bradenton, stood together watching boats circle by the crowds and judges hold up scorecards.

A 33-foot power boat cruised by adorned with Christmas symbols and lights.

“They have the deer. They have the a Santa, a sleigh and a big elf. What else could you ask for?” said Ann Lewis, noting the boat as one of her favorites.

Many of the boats featured Santa and a couple of boats used harnesses to swing a Santa waving to the crowd.

“Santa seems to be a very popular theme this year. He’s on nearly every boat it seems,” Lewis said.

One boat went so far as to create the Island of the Misfit Toys complete with an abominable snowman and toy soldiers, an homage to the television classic “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”

Another had a crane dangling Santa over a Gingerbread house chimney.

“Some of these people spent a lot of time with these,” Jack Lewis said.