Holiday parade of boats will light up Imperial River

Max Selig admits that last year's display was perhaps a bit of overkill, even if the boat's 6,000 bulbs did light the way to a first-place trophy.

Decorated boats cruise down the Imperial River near Bonita Beach Road for the Bonita Springs Area Chamber of Commerce Holiday Boat Parade in 2004.

Photo by File photo

Decorated boats cruise down the Imperial River near Bonita Beach Road for the Bonita Springs Area Chamber of Commerce Holiday Boat Parade in 2004.

As the boat, the work of a group of Bonita Bay residents, slipped down the Imperial River in the cool December night, the contrast between the dark skies and the bright lights was a little too much, he said.

"We toned it down a bit this year," he said. "We're only going to use 4,000 lights and gold foil to reflect it. That should help a little."

To say Selig and company are going all-out is a colossal understatement. As two-time defending champions of the Bonita Springs Holiday Boat Parade, members of the group even bought elf shoes with curled-up, bell-adorned toes, even though no one will be able to see them from the shore.

In its 20th year, the boat parade has drawn up a new route to make the procession a little shorter, in part for safety and in part to attract more boats.

So far only 13 boaters have registered to be judged in the parade. But organizer Trish Leonard said she expects to have between 25 and 30 boats floating down the Imperial River on Saturday night.

This year the parade will start at the mouth of the Imperial instead of at The Fish House restaurant, but will still finish at the eatery, where prizes will be awarded. The boats will hold the course, but the change in starting location could cut the parade time by 90 minutes. Changing the route will let the parade start a little later, 6 p.m. this year.

"We will be starting at night where everyone will have a chance to see the boats at their best," Leonard said. "Before, there was still some daylight, which kept people from getting the full effect."

The Bonita Bay group entry has been in the planning stages almost since the end of last year's parade, said Heather Stahl, an employee at the community's marina club who helps Selig's group organize their boat.

"Before they leave for the summer, they have a plan ready to go," she said. "Now that they are back, they are just putting the final pieces together."

Anyone who wants to register a boat for the parade can do so through today by calling Leonard at the Bonita Springs Area Chamber of Commerce, the event's sponsor, at 992-2943.

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