JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Spectators packed the Jacksonville Landing and the Southbank Riverwalk on Friday night as colorful boats paraded up the St. Johns River for the 32nd annual Community First Jacksonville Light Boat Parade.
This year, the Light Boat Parade coincided with TaxSlayer Bowl festivities, and fans from the University of Kentucky and Georgia Tech joined the Jacksonville community to watch the show.
“As a treasured holiday tradition, I’m thrilled to see our community come together in such a fantastic way to support this year’s Community First Light Boat Parade on its new night,” said Rick Catlett, president and CEO of the JaxSports Council. “And what a treat for all of the visiting fans in town for this year’s TaxSlayer Bowl. I can’t think of a better way to showcase our River City. All of us at the JaxSports Council are proud to invest in and grow this signature event.”
Canoes, kayaks, sailboats and houseboats decorated with special lights thrilled the crowd.
“Jacksonville is a great town. We’ve been out to a couple great restaurants. We’re looking forward to the ball game tomorrow, really,” Kentucky fan John Chamberlin said.
The game kicks off at 11 a.m. at EverBank Field.
The Light Boat Parade ended in one of the city’s largest fireworks displays, the Holiday Fireworks Spectacular, which included displays from two barges in the St. Johns River and from the Main Street and Acosta bridges.
“This has been our first experience down here. All the UK fans, we’re looking forward to the game tomorrow,” Jay Willis said. “The boat parade is just great.”
A panel of local business and community leaders judged the parade from Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront. The panel took into account concept, creativity, execution and on-boat enthusiasm when judging the participants, and identified the top performers in five categories.
The 2016 Community First Jacksonville Light Boat Parade winners were:
Boat No. 3, Vagabond, Capt. Bill Morgan, “Santa wishes everyone a Merry Christmas – Ho! Ho! Ho!”
Private individual under 30 feet
First Place: Boat No. 27, Charlee Too, Capt. Kevin Godwin, “Happy New Year, Feliz Navidad”
Second Place: Boat No. 77, Champagne Jam, Capt. Ed Champagne, “Happy holidays to everyone in Jacksonville”
Private individual over 30 feet:
First Place: Boat No. 32, Secret Egret, Capt. Ashley Laney, “A long time ago, on a river far, far away…”
Second Place: Boat No. 5, Big Deal, Capt. Will Inman, “This Grinch isn’t stealing Christmas because we’re making Christmas Great Again!”
First Place: Boat No. 39, Now and Zen, Capt. Leslie Jones, “Peace on Earth and Love to All”
First Place: Boat No. 62, Branch Office, Capt. Kloe Thompson, “Freedom Boat Club wants everyone to make memories for a lifetime”
Second Place: Boat No. 1, Bounty, Capt. Shane Cawley “Representing Community First Credit Union, the title sponsor of tonight’s event”
The winners were recognized at an awards ceremony at Metropolitan Park after the parade.
Along with a framed award and a party for 10 at a local restaurant, all winners received a TaxSlayer Bowl Package, which includes two tickets to Saturday’s game, along with boat parking. The winners will also be honored during the game.
For more information, please visit www.jacksonvillelightboatparade.com.
Annual Boat Parade Lights Up St. Johns River