Boat parade to light up Bimini Basin
The 33rd annual Cape Coral Christmas Boat-A-Long launches Sunday, bringing decorated boats, fireworks, and a free movie to the Bimini Basin and Four Freedoms Park.
Van Deems, who has participated in the parade for the past five years, was named captain of the lead boat this year for the Cape Coral Christmas Boat-A-Long, which will begin at 7 p.m.
“It’s always a nice time watching the parade of boats, all shapes and sizes cruising the waterways with nearly every square inch covered in Christmas lights that reflect off the water and the sounds of Christmas music filling the air,” Deems said.
Deems 35-foot Marlago “Gold Rush” boat will be decorated in a tropical Christmas theme, displaying a mixture of solid and flashing white lights, wreaths, a Christmas tree of lights on the hardtop of the boat, bead lighting and lit palms with a few coconuts on the bow mixed in with poinsettias.
“I was also informed that Santa may be riding along with a couple of his elf’s singing a few of their favorite songs,” Deems said.
Parks and Recreation Special Events Coordinator Todd King said the free Annual Cape Coral Christmas Boat-A-Long will begin at 5 p.m. at Four Freedoms Park on Sunday with holiday tunes, a visit from Santa Claus, food vendors and the movie Elf shown on the big screen.
Dave Drake, parade organizer said this year those who are participating might have to bundle up for the parade due the predicted temperature on Sunday. The high will be 64 degrees and the low will be 45 degrees, he said.
Drake said the event is a sight to see, especially this year due to the 150 boats that are participating in the parade as of Wednesday.
“The boat parade is the oldest event in the city and has been compared to the Macy’s Day Parade,” Drake said.
“The boaters are excited about showing off their decorated boats and by the tremendous response we get from the crowds,” Drake said. “The people on the parade route decorate their back yards for us and it’s so much fun. For spectators, it’s a chance to get out and see a really great display of Christmas spirit.”
He explained that the line-up of boats in the basin will be escorted by the Cape Coral police boats, which allows every boat to go in front of the Four Freedoms’ peak crowd as the boats go out on the parade route.
Drake said the parade usually lasts for about an hour and a half on the water as they make their way to their final destination.
Tony Salerno, Cape Coral resident, said the first Cape Coral Boat-A-Long he participated in was in 1981.
He said there were probably a dozen boats that participated that year for the parade.
Salerno said Cape Coral was still a small town back then, so information about the parade got around by word of mouth. He explained that he must have told one of the founders Edwina Hahn that he thought the parade was a neat idea because she called him and asked him if he wanted to be apart of the event.
“She called me personally and wanted to know if I could be a part of it,: he explained.
The first boat that Salerno had in the boat parade was a 16-foot fiber glass runabout boat with no seats or a generator. He said halfway through the parade all of his lights went out.
The second and third boat parade he and his father participated in the event together. He said his father had a pontoon boat, so they were able to take more people with them. Salerno explained that the boat had a small generator on it, which ran out of gas in the middle of the parade making the lights go out.
“After that we were in a few more,” he said, adding that they stopped participating in the boat parade and began watching it instead.
This year Salerno will participate in the parade with his 42-foot Riviera Sport Fish, “Gotcha.”
He said they will have about 20 people on the boat with them this year because he enjoys the friendship and fellowship of having them with him during the parade.
“We try to throw candy and stuff on the docks for the people,” he said.
Salerno said he enjoys the beginning of the parade.
“I like the atmosphere of being in the basin when all the boats are together,” Salerno said.
Drake said boat parade will also feature a Holiday Toys for Tots and Teens Drive during the event. There will be a spot in front of the stage at Four Freedoms Park for those who wish to bring an unwrapped toy for the annual Holiday Toys for Tots and Teens Drive and Sea Tow will be available to pick up toys from the boat in Bimini Basin prior to the parade.
“I want to personally thank Sea Tow for all the hard work they do for the boat parade every year,” Drake said.
Drake said he hopes this year everyone who is involved in the parade will follow directions and keep the flow of the boats ongoing out of the basin and throughout the route, so there is no huge gap between the 150 boats participating.
“Once the parade starts, it’s out of my control,” Drake said. “If somebody does something stupid, we have a serious problem.”
Last year, one of the first boats out of the basin stopped to entertain the docks with some live entertainment and that resulted in some delays, he said.
Those who wish to participate in the event should have a boat that is at least 18 feet in length, four and a half foot maximum draw, have the ability to make a 180 degree turn in a 200 foot canal and be able to clear a 55-foot electrical cable. There is no charge for the event and advertising is not permitted.
Drake said individuals can contact him until Saturday night, Dec. 19, to participate in the parade, so he can send them all the information they need.
Rules, directions and maps can be emailed to those who are interested. For information call Dave Drake at (239) 772-9578 or email CCboatparade@aol.com .