More than 80 golf carts, decked out for Christmas, light up this Bradenton neighborhood

For the 19th year, a stream of elaborately decked out holiday golf carts took to the streets Monday evening to light up Horseshoe Cove RV Park for the neighborhood’s Annual Golf Cart Parade.

The decorations were intricate and dazzling and included a float rendition of a Christmas tree complete with 1,500 lights, a choo-choo train, motorboat, stagecoach, and of course Santa’s sleigh, which led the parade. Monday night’s event marked the first of three nights for the parade put on by the Bradenton community’s residents.

An endless procession of carts of all shapes, sizes and colors strutted through the neighborhood as a string of Christmas songs played and candy was tossed to children waving them on as they passed.

The parade has gotten more popular throughout the years, with each seeming to outgrow the last, residents said.

“When I first started, there were like 30 carts,” said Van Lieshout, who has been involved in the parade for 17 years. “And it just grew and grew and grew, and it’s the people here who just make this whole thing what it is. We just try to out-do it each year.”

And so they did, as roughly 83 carts join the festivities this year, a number that has risen significantly since the lone three-wheeled bicycle that Dick Verzone says he started the tradition with in the late 90s.

“It’s crazy,” Verzone said as he directed the carts to their place in line. “Every single one of these carts have been built by people who live here and they are just incredible.”

Residents at Horseshoe Cove RV Resort deck out their golf carts in the 19th Annual Golf Cart Parade on Monday, Dec. 18. Samantha Putterman sputterman@bradenton.com

While the responsibility of the choo-choo train was passed on to Buddy Bunson four years ago, he has fully embraced his role as the float’s “conductor.”

“It took four of us about three days to put it together,” Bunson said, fully dressed in his conductor’s uniform. “Everyone loves it. The whole parade, everyone is waiting for it.”

For this year’s parade, Bunson’s neighbor, Patti Barrett, volunteered to be his “co-conductor,” a vital role to help him see when driving the cart-turned-train.

But even more importantly — Patti takes care of the train’s smoke while Buddy is in charge of the choo-choo’s whistle.

Patti Barrett (left) and Buddy Bunson get ready to jump on their cart-turned choo-choo train at Horseshoe RV Resort’s 19th Annual Golf Cart Parade on Monday, Dec. 18. Samantha Putterman sputterman@bradenton.com

Though donations come in occasionally, organizers said, the parade is mostly funded by the park’s residents who pay for their carts’ makeovers themselves.

The parade is special in a lot of ways for the RV park’s residents. Some said it lies in the tradition of it all and the opportunity to bond with neighbors and friends.

But for many, Verzone said, it’s the joy it brings to the rows of people who come out to see them.

“It’s just incredible.”

Samantha Putterman: 941-745-7027, @samputterman

If you go

On Wednesday, the parade will leave the RV park and visit Pleasant Lake Mobile Home Park.

On Friday, the parade will visit Harborage on Braden River, Westwinds Mobile Home Park and Windmill Mobile Home Park. Those interested in watching can set up chairs along Caruso Road and State Road 70.

Both parades roll out at 6 p.m., and police help ensure the traveling procession stays safe.