PHOTOS: Isles of Capri holiday boat parade

Capri’s Christmas Clauses cruised the canals Saturday night in their seventh annual holiday boat parade. Compared to the massive, almost corporate boat parades in Naples and elsewhere, with sponsors and charitable tie-ins, the Isles of Capri parade is an idiosyncratic, down-homey group of neighbors getting together to have a blast on the water.

That doesn’t mean they don’t go all out. The flagship of the fleet of nine vessels, 58-foot Sasha was topped with an illuminated chickee hut, and on the foredeck, a forest of brightly lit trees provided a backdrop for hula dancers, their grass skirts strung with lights.

“We were going to wear bikinis, but it’s a little chilly,” said Sandy Hurley, before stepping aboard Sasha to dance, along with her daughter Meagan. “So we’re going with gloves instead.”

Judge Ann Hall initially said the winners would remain secret until the awards ceremony in January, but the beans got spilled early. “Best overall” honors went to Sasha.

Jeri Neuhaus, Whitney Blair and Tara LaGrande need to give serious consideration to a post-holiday diet. The trio apparently bulked up to somewhere between sumo wrestler and hippo size, swaying in their grass skirts on Kristopher’s Kringles, with palm trees, a team of pink flamingos driven by Santa, and “Happy Huladay” written on the side of the pontoon boat. Neuhaus said they give the craft a new name to go with the new look each year; last year the same boat was the enormous pink flamingo. They won for “Most Creative” entry.

Mike and Tina Kochis decked out Bikini Tini, and also hosted the after party for the crews and judges at their home. They captured the “Most Unique” award.

Chuck and Ginny Walton co-chaired the event, as they have for the past seven years. Their Rebound II with its noisemaking crew took the “Most Spirited” award. The judges, also including Ed Hall, Collier County Commissioner Donna Fiala, and Paul and Yvonne Rhodes, reviewed the parade from Tony and Vicky Voight’s riverside home.

After jilling about in Tarpon Bay as the sky darkened and the boats mustered, and enjoying free pizza provided by Capri Café, the boats headed out.

The fleet wound in and around the Capri canals, with the Waltons having picked an evening when the tide was high. As always, the Capri Fire/Rescue boat led the parade, with Sea-Tow in the rear.

“We’re the caboose,” said Kelsey Johnson, helping shove off the Sea-Tow vessel, “in case anybody gets stuck.”

Rock and roll mingled with Christmas tunes from the boats’ sound systems and the fireboat’s horn, as residents in waterfront homes, tailgating in empty lots, and aboard the boats enjoyed a holiday parade Capri-style.

“We’re just a bunch of folks getting together,” said Chuck Walton.

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