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Jacksonville Light Boat Parade flows downtown on Thanksgiving weekend

Santa and his reindeer glow on this boat during a recent Jacksonville Light Boat Parade
City of Jacksonville
Santa and his reindeer glow on this boat during a recent Jacksonville Light Boat Parade

Illuminated boats with glowing holiday themes will cruise around the St. Johns River on Nov. 26 as the annual Jacksonville Light Boat Parade flows past Downtown's riverwalks.

And once again leading the dozens of cabin cruisers, sailboats and others participating in the long-running holiday tradition will be Bob Brindle’s 30-foot boat, the "Still Knot X Zackly," with a Nativity scene on its decks.

The 77-year-old Jacksonville Beach captain had been part of the parade for more than 20 years, calling it one of the city’s premier events for huge crowds he passes every year on the riverwalks.

“They are eight to 10 people deep all along. I think it brings out a lot of our citizens from the Jacksonville area. They love to see the boats going by," Brindle said. "We have megaphones and we yell back and forth with the people on the docks. They yell back to us. We say 'Merry, you say Christmas,' and they will yell back 'Christmas' to us.”

Set to sail at 6 p.m. on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, boat owners adorn their hulls with festive decorations before they cruise past the north and south banks of the St. Johns River in a tradition started more than 30 years ago. Visitors can watch the aquatic parade along the North and Southbank Riverwalks as well as Riverfront Plaza, the site of the now-demolished Jacksonville Landing.

When the parade wraps up after participating boats run the route off downtown, the evening concludes with a fireworks show that includes a waterfall of sparks from the Main Street and Acosta Bridge.

Participants will be judged on overall look and decoration composition in three classes: boats under 30 feet, boats 30 feet and over, sailboats and corporate. Brindle says his boat's has been decorated for years with a Nativity scene, complete with "a couple of camels."

"I don't do it to win it. I do it because I enjoy it and have a good time," he said. "... It's a family event and everybody has a god time."

Boaters can register here for the parade.

Festivities begin ashore at 4 p.m. as the city hosts the Light Boat Parade's 904 Pop Up at Riverfront Plaza! at
2 Independent Drive with 15 food trucks and more than 200 local artists and and craftspeople.

Dan Scanlan is a veteran journalist with almost 40 years as a radio, television and print reporter in the Jacksonville area, as well as years of broadcast work in the Northeast. You can reach Dan at, (904) 607-2770 or on Twitter at @scanlan_dan.