Holiday boat parades invade waterways around Tampa Bay area
The Tampa Bay area is ready to celebrate the holidays in true Florida style, as elaborately decorated boats take to area waterways for a slew of lighted boat parades in the mild Florida weather. All of the parades are free, and many of them start this weekend. Here's a schedule: Friday, Dec. 7 Madeira Beach – Boats assemble in Boca Ciega Bay before sailing from John's Pass through the Intracoastal Waterway to City Hall. The parade begins at 6 p.m.St. Pete Beach – Boats travel from the Blind Pass Marina and travel south to the Bayway Bridge. A viewing party and tree-lighting festival begins at the Horan Park Community Center at 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8 St. Petersburg – Boats sail from Bayboro, past the front of the Pier, along the shoreline around the Vinoy Basin and out into Tampa Bay. A holiday festival with live music, food and drinks begins in the park at 3 p.m. and the parade departs at 6. Gulfport – The annual parade travels along the shore of Gulfport, beginning at 6 p.m., and passes by area landmarks such as the Gulport Marina (6:15), Gulfport City Dock (6:30), Town Shores (6:45) and Pasadena Yacht Club (7:15). Treasure Island – Boats depart from The Club Treasure Island, passing under the Treasure Island Causeway Bridge and ending at John's Pass. The recommended public viewing locations are 115th Avenue on Isle of Palms, the Treasure Island Causeway Bridge and Gator's Café & Saloon in John's Pass. Clearwater – Boats leave Mandalay Channel and sail toward Coachman Park, go under the Memorial Causeway Bridge and arrive at the Clearwater Yacht Club for judging. The parade starts at 6:30 p.m. Weeki Wachee River – The 27th annual parade off begins at the Weeki Wachee Marina before it travels to a judging area at Rogers Park, then to the Bayport Fishing Pier and back to Rogers Park again. The parade starts at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 16 Tampa – Decorated boats and kayaks take to the Hillsborough River, for a parade where the motto is "anything that floats, qualifies." Paddlers lead the way and powerboats follow, as the parade leaves the Lowry Park Boat Ramp at 6 p.m. and goes upriver to the Sulphur Springs City Pool Park off Nebraska Avenue. The best viewing is at Lowry Park. Saturday, Dec. 22 Tampa – The Channelside Boat Parade will feature boats traveling along the water by Davis Island, Harbour Island and the Channelside district. The parade can be viewed from the open wharf at Channelside Bay Plaza, beginning at 6:30 p.m.