Crowds line Alafia River for lighted boat parade
RIVERVIEW - For more than two hours, spectators lined the bank awaiting the arrival of a flotilla of festivity. About 8 p.m., six boats decorated for the holidays illuminated the surface of the brackish darkness of the Alafia River and brightened the sky. The boats made up the contingent for The FishHawk-Riverview Rotary Club's 28th annual Alafia Lighted Boat Parade and Chili Cook-Off on Dec. 3. The annual festival benefits Rotary scholarships, service projects and charities. Riverview's Amber Nix, son Trey Alford, 3, and her friend Anthony Parker eagerly awaited the parade's start. As the first boat, Rotary Camp Florida — adorned with white lights in the formation of reindeer — rounded a bend, Trey perked up."Oh, I see it! I see it! Here comes the boats," he said, as applause broke out around him. Rotary officials estimated 1,250 to 1,500 people visited the festival to watch boats decorated as lighted tokens of Christmas — Santa Clauses, elves, reindeer and Christmas trees — cruise by. The boats included a 20-foot Mako occupied by Erik Dankerl of Riverview, his girlfriend, Tammy Schuler, Erik's son, Joshua, 9, and two family friends. Dankerl said he had been in the parade at least 16 times and enjoys hollering "Merry Christmas" to homeowners sitting in their backyards watching the parade. "But it's really for the kids to just enjoy Christmas," Dankerl said. "I love pulling up to the shore and seeing the parties. I whistle 'Jingle Bells' because the people know from years before." Paul Catala
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