31st Christmas Boat Parade, December 7th

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A Holiday Event 

Everybody on Fort Myers Beach knows the 31st annual Christmas Boat Parade, sponsored by the Greater Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce, is a legendary island event, occurring this year on Saturday, December 7, from 6 to roughly 8 p.m. Now, however, its reputation for excellence is going national!

“We received word roughly two weeks ago from the ‘USA Today’ Newspaper that someone nominated the Christmas Boat Parade as one of the Top Ten Best Holiday Boat Parades in the entire nation,” beamed Jacki Liszak, the FMB Chamber Executive Director! “My immediate reaction was ‘What?!’ When they told us about this great honor, we learned that nominations are anonymous, so whoever did this for us, we say ‘Thank You’ from the bottom of our hearts, as this is so exciting!”

Jacki stated that once the Chamber learned of its nomination, “we went online to check out the competition and then the honor became even greater. Other nominated events include ‘The Winterfest Boat Parade’ in Fort Lauderdale with over 60 boats and a huge budget, with superstar Grand Marshals in previous years such as Gloria Estefan, The Backstreets Boys, and William Shatner! The last we heard, we were running neck-&-neck in the online voting for 4th and 5th place, as the competition is obviously stiff, so please cast your votes for us.”

Date That Lives In Infamy!

While this year’s FMB Christmas Boat Parade Grand Marshal is not a national celebrity, Jacki could not be prouder of their selection: “John Murphy, who is a veteran of the Second World War and father of Ray Murphy, the Vice Mayor of the Town of Fort Myers Beach, will lead our event. When we made the choice, we realized December 7th is the date of Pearl Harbor and 2019 marks the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, so honoring a true gentleman like John Murphy, who represents The Greatest Generation, is so appropriate. Of course, what would a Christmas Boat Parade be without Santa & Mrs. Claus helping to lead the way!”

Army Private 1st Class John Murphy, Junior, studied at Fordham University and was an ROTC member. When called to duty, he served first in France than later in Germany as a medical technician in evacuation hospitals. Murphy is 97 years young and the proud father of 10 children, including the Vice Mayor. He recently lost his beloved wife of 67 year, Anne – their true love story and mutual loyalty never diminished over that time!

Registration & Parade Route

If you want to register your boat in the Christmas Boat Parade, fill out the application form prior to the Captain’s Meeting at www.FMBBoatParade.com. “Boats of all sizes and types are welcome,” Jacki explained, “with a $25 registration fee per boat or $50 if a business sponsors you. Pay either online or submit a check to the Chamber.”

Boats assemble in front of the Salty Sam’s Marina dock at 2500 Main Street at 5:30 p.m., said Jacki. “At 6 p.m., boats pull away from Salty Sam’s, then cruise past Parrot Key and the Original Shrimp Dock heading northwest. Next is Doc Ford’s, Dixie Fish House and Bonita Bill’s before going underneath the Matanzas Pass Bridge. Boats then weave in and out of Siesta Isles before moving toward Bowditch Point Park, then turning in front of the Pink Shell Resort & Marina, before heading back past Nervous Nellie’s and Matanzas on The Bay, then finishing at Salty Sam’s for the Winners Circle Party and award presentations. VIP judges will announce the winners for individual and sponsored Small Power Boat, Large Power Boat, Sailboat, Favorite Boat and Most Spirited Crew. To vote for the ‘People’s Choice’ Award see www.FMBBoatParade.com.”

As for the boats, “decorations range from extravagant and surreal,” marveled Jacki. “Every year, the boat captains and crews seem to outdo the previous Parade, like neighbors do with yard decorations, to the delight of not only those on-board but everyone watching from ashore. This is a family event that literally sparkles, is great fun, and a terrific party for those on and around the water. We hear ‘The Shark Boat’ might return, even though there is no longer a ‘Shark Bar,’ and keep an eye out for Santa’s reindeer, as they need to log some practice time before the Big Night! We hope as well that more boats decorate using energy-efficient LED lights, as those made their debut last year.”

For prime viewing locations, Jacki suggested “Visit any of the bars and restaurants along the parade route, along with excellent locales such as Bayfront Square Park next to Nervous Nellie’s, and the various canal hammerheads, though you must bring your own lawn chairs for these areas. It takes about 45 minutes to watch all boats go by at whatever location you select. Remember, though, that these are Saturday evening prime-time dining hours, so don’t monopolize a table all night; be considerate to the establishments and your fellow customers who want to turn over their tables. Call ahead to make reservations and learn the policy of each restaurant for that evening.”

Fun Family Community Event

“There is a mandatory Captain’s meeting with co-chairs Ted Schindler II and Megan Zelenak-Allers,” Jacki related, “to go over the basic guidelines, at Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille at 708 Fishermans Wharf on San Carlos Island, underneath the Matanzas Pass Bridge, on Wednesday, December 4, at 7 p.m. We will still accept boat registrations through the Captain’s Meeting, but none after that. We already have 20 boats for the 2019 event and would love to exceed 30! In addition to Ted and Megan as Co-chairs, Janeen Paulauskis is the Event Coordinator.” “If you have a boat, I encourage you to decorate it and join us for the parade,” said Janeen. “It’s a great way to get into the Christmas spirit and it’s the best party around Town!”

For sponsorship information, to register and pay, or for additional details, contact the Greater Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce at 239-454-7500 or see www.FMBBoatParade.com. To vote in the “USA Today Best Holiday Boat Parade” competition, go to bit.ly/isp10best

“The ‘Christmas Boat Parade is one of the best nights on Fort Myers Beach all year long,” summarized Jacki. “It rings in the Holiday season and puts everyone in that festive mood. In Southwest Florida, we really do not have that many opportunities to put on that ugly Christmas sweater and get out together, but at the Christmas Boat Parade, you see everyone lined up along the docks, cheering and clapping at all the beautiful lights on the boats, and you know that Christmas is here, in a fun and family community event! Thank you to everyone who works so hard to make the annual Christmas Boat Parade a huge success, especially to all of our sponsors, with a special thanks to Salty Sam’s Marina for partnering with the Chamber again this year.“

Experience this seasonal feeling for yourself while watching the water shimmer, the stars shine, and the Holiday lights sparkle at the 31st annual “Christmas Boat Parade” on Saturday evening, December 7, at 6 p.m.