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A Festival of Lights Christmas Boat Parade

They’re a Florida Christmas season tradition to evoke the Christmas spirit in cities where the balmy weather is the talk of the town while their neighbors to the north are usually kept indoors by bone-chilling temperatures. And the sight is spectacular as dozens of lighted boats–from the smallest dinghy to the most exclusive yacht promenade along the waterways of Florida during winter decorated with strings of lights lining the hulls, masts and riggings, and of course music. It’s this Florida holiday boat parade that is taking New Providence by storm, in the”Festival of Lights Christmas Boat Parade.”

The parade, a Ministry of Tourism venture will sail the waterways from Montagu to Arawak Cay and back to Montagu on Saturday, December 18.

Janet Johnson, the Ministry of Tourism’s director for group services and events says quite a few boats have signed on to participate and that this first Christmas Boat Parade will be humble in its beginnings, put spectacular all the same, making for a fabulous boat parade that will be a great outing for the family.

With 10 boats, including the Bo Hengy confirmed to participate up to Thursday morning, Johnson was making rounds to the marinas on Thursday shoring up commitments to increase the numbers in the flotilla. By Saturday morning’s final skipper’s meeting at the Nassau Yacht Club she says the numbers should increase as a number of persons with private yachts had not turned in their paperwork as yet.

The Christmas Boat Parade for which Sir Durward Knowles is grand marshall will begin at Montagu Bay with a blessing of the flotilla, and a performance by the Police Force Marching Band. With vendors set up selling Bahamian favorite eats and a mini concert by Berkley Van Byrd(formerly of the T-Connection), Johnson says there’s something for everyone. Fireworks will also light up the evening sky to the delight of onlookers.

The boat, strung with lights and decorations in all their splendor paying tribute to the Christmas season will then sail out of Montagu, sailing at a leisurely pace towards Arawak Cay, turn around in that basin and return to Montagu, along a route that will have lots of great viewing spots for the entire family. The boat parade is expected to run from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.

“We’re excited about it,” said Johnson.”This is a first for the Ministry of Tourism to be involved with. We’re very happy that the boaters from the private sector have answered the call,” she said.

“The Bo Hengy has teamed up with the Hilton which is doing a customer appreciation party onboard the Bo Hengy in the parade, so we want to see more corporations, organizations doing that sort of thing–doing their Christmas parties on a boat in the parade, because the harbor is our natural marine resource, and we don’t use it. And this is a way to do something different, but also to entertain the public.”

Tourists staying at Atlantis, the Hilton and on two cruise ships that will be overnighting in the harbor will also have perfect views of the boat parade, which Johnson says will enhance their experience.

“The advantage we have with the harbor is that you’ve got viewing on both sides, so you have the Atlantis on one end, and the Hilton on the other end and the cruise ship passengers. People that live in coastal regions and lakes in the United States are very familiar with Christmas boat parades,” she said.

Christmas boat parades are so popular in Florida, one report says in exclusive Palm Beach, a large boat boasted an orchestra playing dance music while women in long dresses and men in white tuxedos and top hats waltzed on the deck. 

Johnson was in Fort Lauderdale last week viewing their boat parade which she said was phenomenal and viewed by thousands of people. She hopes the Ministry of Tourism’s first Festival of Lights Christmas Boat Parade is a success for all participants and viewers.

Prizes will also be awarded for best music and best decor.

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