Boat-a-long: Cape to hold holiday bash on the water
By TIFFANY REPECKI
Boats adorned with holiday lights and decorations will take to the water Saturday evening as Cape Coral marks the season with its 38th annual celebration.
Hosted by the city, the Holiday Boat-A-Long will be held from 4 to 9 p.m. at Four Freedoms Park. It will feature live music, a visit from Santa and the boat-a-long, followed by a movie in the park.
“Cape Coral doesn’t do a Christmas parade,” Todd King, the special events coordinator for the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, said. “This, in essence, constitutes its Christmas parade.”
He added that the city is known for being a boating community, so it makes sense.
“There’s just something magical about the lights and the boats and how they look on the water,” King said.
The celebration will kick off at 4 p.m., with the entertainment provided by local groups.
“Several performers will be on the stage,” he said.
Some of the acts include the Robin Dawn Academy of Performing Arts, students from Cypress Lake High School and the Silver Strings Chamber Orchestra, which hails from the country of Slovakia.
At approximately 6:30 p.m., attendees can expect a visit from St. Nick himself.
“Santa is going to make his final stop before his big night and visit with us,” King said. “He’ll meet with the kids for their last-minute Christmas wishes.”
Families are encouraged to bring a camera for the photo opportunity.
Children will also have a chance to work on Christmas crafts inside Santa’s workshop.
“They can make some ornaments and several little candy cane crafts,” he said.
At about 7 p.m., the decorated boats will begin the parade in the Bimini Basin, before heading out along the route. It takes approximately 45 minutes for the boats to move out of the basin.
“It’s 100-plus boats lit up to the hilt, celebrating the great holiday season,” King said.
Previously held on a Sunday, this will be the first year that the city will host the boat-a-long on a Saturday. Organizers noted that there may be more participating boats because of the change.
“I think it’ll be close to the same (as last year), if not a few more,” he said.
King explained that some of the boats register for the event, but many just show up.
“They really get into the holiday spirit and do lights and decorations on their boats,” he said. “What people come up with for the lighting in this parade.”
One boat from last year’s parade made use of a giant candy cane.
“The one that had the 44-foot candy cane on its side,” King said. “The creativity is amazing.”
Attendees are welcome to bring blankets and chairs to sit on.
“All of that is approved,” he said. “Also, a lot of people come early to establish their spot like they would at any parade.”
Last year, an estimated 5,000-plus turned out for the celebration. With changing the event day from a Sunday to a Saturday, organizers are bracing for an even bigger turnout this year.
“We’re a little nervous. We anticipate a really large crowd and we’re prepping for that,” King said.
After the parade, the city will host a movie in park, featuring “The Polar Express.” Last year, it showed some classics, such as “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”
“This year, we’re doing a feature film,” he said.
Food and drink vendors will be on site, offering traditional festival fare.
“It’s a magical night leading up to Christmas Eve, and we’re just looking forward to a great night,” King said.
Public parking for the celebration will be available in two lots to the west of Four Freedoms Park. Attendees can also park in the downtown public lots, including Big John’s and Club Square.
Four Freedoms Park is at 4818 Tarpon Court.