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Holiday revelers take to the waterways this weekend


Published:   |   Updated: December 12, 2013 at 11:03 AM

Island Estates Yacht Club prepares for its 39th annual parade
 
CLEARWATER — Nothing demonstrates Christmas in the Sunshine State more than maritime merriment — flotillas of lavishly decked out boats twinkling with lights and overflowing with holiday cheer as they parade along neighborhood canals and intracoastal waterways.
 
According to VisitFlorida.com, as many as 75 boat parades are held throughout the state during December. Twenty-three parades are scheduled this weekend in mostly coastal locales including Bonita Springs, Clearwater, Captiva Island, Carrabelle, Cedar Key, Cocoa Beach, Deland, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Pierce, Gulfport, Key Largo, Key West, Madeira Beach, Marathon, Miami, Naples, Lake Okeechobee, Pine Island, Placida, Sarasota, St. Augustine, St. Petersburg and Treasure Island/Indian Shores.
 
Along Pinellas County waterways, four parades are planned.
 
The Island Estates Yacht Club, which stages one of the largest yuletide events in the county, will celebrate its 39th edition starting at 6:30 p.m. Saturday. The parade honors the memory of club members who've died over the past year.
 
Decorated boats will assemble in Mandalay Channel between Island Estates and Clearwater Beach at 6 p.m. The lead boat will proceed north through Mandalay Channel, weaving in and out of Island Estates' canals before heading to downtown Clearwater's Coachman Park around 8 p.m. From there, the parade will head south under the Memorial Causeway Bridge and then west to the Clearwater Yacht Club for judging.
 
Captains of the best-decorated boats will receive cash or gift certificates donated by area businesses.
 
A pre-parade meeting is set for 6:30 this evening at the club, 830 S. Bayway Blvd., on south Clearwater Beach.
 
The 4th annual Festival of Lights Holiday Boat Parade launches from John's Pass at 6:30 p.m. Saturday and travels north through local canals to Madeira Beach City Hall.
 
Boaters are expected to begin staging at John's Pass around 5:30. Traffic over the drawbridge along Tom Stuart Causeway will be delayed while the parade cruises beneath the bridge between 8 and 8:30 p.m.
 
A mandatory boat captain's meeting is tonight at 6 at the Madeira Beach Marina.
 
The 27th Annual Illuminated Boat Parade in St. Petersburg is set for Saturday at 6 p.m. The parade leaves from Bayboro Harbor, passes in front of The Pier near the shoreline in and around the Vinoy Basin and then back out into Tampa Bay.
 
Grandstand seating is $5. For more information, call (727) 822-3277, e-mail info@stpeteboatparade.org or visit www.stpeteboatparade.org.
 
The Redington Beach and Indian Shores Illuminated Boat Parade starts at 6 p.m. Sunday along Madeira Beach just north of the Tom Stuart Causeway and heads north to Indian Shores Town Hall. The Pub in Indian Shores will host refreshments and an awards presentation. To locate the parade route and best areas for public viewing, visit www.myindianshores.com.
 
For those who miss any of those events this weekend, the Treasure Island Holiday Boat Parade begins at The Club at Treasure Island, 400 Treasure Island Causeway, at 6:20 p.m. Dec. 21. The parade passes through the channel at the Treasure Island Causeway Bridge around 7 and ends at John's Pass around 8:30.
 
The bridge will close to traffic at 7 that night for 30 to 45 minutes. Rain date for the parade is Dec. 22. For more information, visit www.mytreasureisland.org/boatparade.htm.
 
jane@clearwatergazette.com

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