Who needs snow when you’ve got boats? Manatee kicks off holiday season with parade

Dozens of captains hit the Manatee River Saturday night to put on the jolliest boat show of the year.

The Bradenton Yacht Club’s seawall was lined with hundreds of locals gathered to watch the boats sail through the Snead Island Cutoff with their holiday spirit on display. The lights were only part of the action, as most of the boats incorporated music and dancers into their performance.

“This is our favorite Christmas holiday event,” said Jane Rued, who has spent the past 15 years using the event to spend time with family.

One of the most popular boats was lit using more than 800 feet of extension cords and over 10,000 lights. Others sang Christmas carols and waved to guests. That’s the kind of spectacle Rued, who attended with her husband Larry, was looking for.

“We’re yacht club members but we don’t have a boat so we rely on them, and we really appreciate the effort they put in” she said.

For about 25 years, Julie Beddow has attended the parade, calling it the perfect way to usher in the holiday season. Over the years, she’s noticed that it has become more popular and participants continue to go above and beyond.

“They do a great job,” Beddow said. “The boats are always beautiful and decked out. We’ve had friends participate and have been on their boats, but the parade always does well.”

There was slight concern that the parade would be canceled again this year after a spell of cool weather earlier in the week, but temperatures took a positive turn and the show went on without issue. Parade organizers were forced to cancel last year when strong winds and lows 40s weather combined for poor boating conditions.

“It’s just a nice event, particularly when the weather is good,” said George Evans, who has attended the parade for 10 years.

Others said that a touch of cold weather is the only thing Florida is missing during the holiday season. The boat parade, however, is a fine substitute.

“It’s a great way for Florida to celebrate Christmas without the cold and the snow,” said Larry Rued. “When you live in Florida, it doesn’t feel very much like Christmas. This fixes that.”

Participants in the parade were competing for cash prizes rewarded for first, second and third place, according to an announcer.

There were two different prize categories this year — Over 40’ and under 40’. The winners are as follows:

Over 40’

First place: Haulin Grass — Captain Brian Turner

Second place: Rhapsody on Blue — Captain Bill Hayes

Third place: Plane Nauti — Captain Richard Lockman

Under 40’

First place: Snapper Addict 2 — Captain Layne Ostrander

Second place: Ribbons, Bows and Ho Ho — Captain Heath Daughtry

Third place: Fishin Toy — Captain Erik Jones