Boat parades brighten up the holidays

Published online: Dec 02, 2011 News Charles Runnells -
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Stuart Kaplan loves bringing a cheerful holiday glow to Fort Myers Beach every year. And that's not a metaphor.

Kaplan supplies that festive glow with about 1,500 LED light bulbs. He strings the colorful holiday lights along his 21-foot Sea Ray power boat, and there's usually an illuminated Frosty the Snowman perched on the bow, too.

Kaplan's Sea Ray will be one of about 20 illuminated boats traveling along Matanzas Pass on Saturday. And that holiday boat parade isn't the only one in Southwest Florida.

Other boat parades are scheduled in Naples, Captiva Island, Marco Island, Isle of Capri, Pine Island, Cape Coral and Bonita Springs.

For the Fort Myers Beach parade, decorated and illuminated boats will travel along Siesta Bay and Matanzas Pass. People gather along the parade route and residents throw holiday parties in their backyards.

"It's a lot of fun," says Kaplan of south Fort Myers, an eye doctor who has four boat-parade trophies on his office desk at Cape Coral Eye Center (including one first place win in 2009). "People are having their parties. You're cruising along, and you're yelling `Happy holidays,' and they're yelling `Happy holidays' back to you. It's a blast!"

The parades vary in size and scope. Cape Coral's long-running Holiday Boat-A-Long features about 100 boats. Farther south, the Isle of Capri parade has just nine or 10.

"That's not bad for a small island," says co-organizer Chuck Walton.

Walton never knows how he'll decorate his 21-foot hurricane-deck boat until a few weeks beforehand. He and his wife, Ginny, started the annual boat parade eight years ago.

"I don't have a theme," Walton says. "I just go out there and start putting lights up. And then, all of a sudden, something comes to me."


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