EAST COUNTY — Members of the Old Braden River Historical Society hope to make some history of their own this holiday season.
The group will host its first Braden River Boat Parade Dec. 8.
The event will consist of a line of decorated boats, canoes and kayaks, driven by area residents and businesses owners as they cruise along Braden River from Jiggs Landing to Linger Lodge.
Former Linger Lodge restaurant owner Frank Gamsky will serve as the parade’s grand marshal.
Starting at 5:30 p.m., boaters will travel on a five-mile path beginning at Jiggs Landing, 6106 63rd St. E., and ending at Linger Lodge, 7205 85th St. Court E., where a party awaits to close out the evening.
Activities include auctions, judging of the boats for prizes and dinner at Linger Lodge, which is optional for those attending. Winners of the five categories, whom the public will choose, will receive cash prizes and gift cards. Categories include: Best in Show, Best Illuminated, Best Florida Cracker, Most Festive and Most Creative. The first-place winner will receive a cash prize of $300, made possible by donors.
Participants can cast their vote via text message, to 320-8811, or by paper ballot at Linger Lodge during the post-parade festivities.
The string of boats will include the Historical Society’s contribution to the parade — what the team is calling “Sleigh Ride on the River.” The pontoon boat-turned-Santa’s sleigh is still in the preparatory stages, while Historical Society members Donna Hayes, secretary, and Denise Kleiner, president and founder, finish the cosmetics of the project. The duo is keeping busy adding red lights to a white cutout of a sleigh and putting together a wreath made of ornaments strung onto fishing wire.
Currently, 10 boats are slated for the event, but Kleiner is hoping for 25 of any shape and size. She also wants to attract 1,500 spectators, whom she encourages to watch the parade from their own docks or from either Jiggs Landing or Linger Lodge — her picks for the best viewing spots.
Kleiner first mentioned the boat parade idea to Hayes about two months ago — an idea that sparked after Kleiner remembered a tradition she and her mother shared.
“My mother lives in Fort Myers Beach, and they always had these boat parades there,” Kleiner said. “I remembered we haven’t had anything like that in this area in about 20 years, and when it happened, it wasn’t something that stuck. I thought it was time to start something new here.”
By using the river as the parade’s venue, Kleiner hopes residents will reminisce and see the event as an “Old Florida-style parade,” something residents who live in eastern parts of the county can call their own and look forward to each year, she said.
Historical Society members recommend those interested in driving their boats in the parade register online prior to the event, at oldbradenriver.org.
However, same-day registration is an option, too, but must be completed by 4 p.m. Dec. 8.
With no registration fees, the only costs are decorating the boats and buying dinner, at the patron’s own expense, after the parade at Linger Lodge.
“This is a community effort,” Hayes said. “Watching or riding in the parade is a great way to show appreciation for the nature and resources we have in this area.”
For more information, visit oldbradenriver.org.
The Christmas Boat Parade kicks off at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 8, at Jiggs Landing, 6106 63rd St. E. Visit oldbradenriver.org for more information.
Contact Amanda Sebastiano at [email protected].