More than 70 vessels ranging from houseboats and sailboats to even canoes and kayaks will be decorated with lights and paraded down the St. Johns River Saturday night for the 30th anniversary of the Jacksonville Light Boat Parade.
After five years of severe funding cutbacks to the annual Jacksonville holiday tradition due to the tightened city budget, the city of Jacksonville announced earlier this year that the boat parade had a new manager and a new title sponsor.
The newly titled Community First Jacksonville Light Boat Parade under the management of Gator Bowl Sports is expected this year to bring the event back to how it was during its glory days, like when it was picked by Southern Living magazine as one of the top ten must attend events of the holiday season.
The parade route begins at Metropolitan Park heading down the Northbank turning around at the Fuller Warren Bridge. The boats will then follow the Southbank to the Duval County School Board Building. The boats will make the lap of the round twice. Vendors with food and drinks will be available at Friendship Fountain on the Southbank, The Jacksonville Landing, and on the Northbank Riverwalk at Hogan Street and Market Street.
Following the parade will be "the largest fireworks show in the state of Florida," according to Rick Catlett, president of Gator Bowl Sports. There will be two barges full of fireworks in the river and cascading waterfall fireworks off of the bridges, said Catlett. Catlett said the fireworks display will last about 25 minutes at a cost of about $60,000 and will be "an unbelievable spectacular."
For more details about the Community First Light Boat Parade including road and bridge closures, visit jacksonvillelightboatparade.com.