2016 Palm Beach Holiday Boat Parade
2016 Boat Parade Photos and Videos
By PAMELA and GERRY BARKER
North Palm Beach Life
NORTH PALM BEACH_ Believe it or not, one of the highlight events of the holiday season is only a little more than a month away.
The 22nd edition of the Palm Beach Holiday Boat Parade happens on Dec. 3. Presented by the Marine Industries Association of Palm Beach County, North Palm Beach Life sat down with Alyssa Freeman, Operations Director, to learn what's new this year.
"The biggest, newest thing is we added a Grand Marshal," said Ms. Freeman. "Mo and Sally from Kool 105.5 have been our grand marshals for over a decade, and they've been fabulous. This year we brought on a new person to join them -- Emily Brooke."
Ms. Brooke, who hails from Wellington, was on the final season of American Idol. "We are super excited to welcome her," Ms. Freeman said. She feels the young country singer will bring a new audience to the event.
As in years past, the parade will be accompanied by fireworks, which will kick off the beginning of the procession at North Palm Beach Marina and all along the route that concludes in Jupiter.
Despite months of preparation and attention to detail, the biggest unknown remains the one thing they can't control -- the weather.
"The weather impacted last year's parade," noted Ms. Freeman. She said in 2015 they had more boats signed up to participate than in the previous eight years she's been involved. Then the rains and wind hit.
And the number of boats wasn't the only thing affected.
The chief beneficiary of the event is Toys for Tots, the program run by the U.S. Marines that distributes toys to needy children. Donations last year were down some 3,000 toys from the previous year.
"We'll have about 100 donation boxes at local businesses around town," said Ms. Freeman. "We also want to remind people attending the parade to wave their flashlights and volunteers will collect the toys." She also noted that all toys collected are distributed in Palm Beach County.
What about the best places to watch the parade?
If you have kids, Ms. Freeman recommends the Jupiter River Walk or Harbourside Place, where they'll be free family events prior to the parade. For picnickers, one of the local parks along the route, like Bert Winters.
To see the grand finale fireworks, you may want to grab a spot at popular watering holes Square Grouper or U-Tiki, near the Jupiter Lighthouse.
Boats of all sizes are welcome. In fact, Ms. Freeman said this year there may be an entry from the Palm Beach lifeguards, who plan on rowing. (Note: Smaller and human-powered boats will be placed at the end of the parade.)
There's a $20 refundable deposit to cover the cost of the judging boards, and everyone entered will be competing for $10,000 in cash and prizes.
"We have 10 judges," said Ms. Freeman, "all filling out score cards. Scores are then put into spreadsheets and double checked." Sometimes, the results are razor-thin. "Last year we had somebody miss third place by one point," she said.
To keep everything fair, all numbers will be checked at the end of the parade to ensure all boats entered finish the course
A number of businesses are donating gift cards to cover the cost of fuel, and boat owners also have a chance to win $1,000 in gas cards at a Nov. 30 meeting.
Of course, the boat parade wouldn't be possible without the support and cooperation between area law enforcement agencies, including the North Palm Beach police, the Coast Guard, Jupiter police, Palm Beach County officers and their respective marine units. Also participating this year is Palm Beach County Ocean Rescue.
"They are amazing," said Ms. Freeman.
Want to know the up-to-the-minute status of where the parade is? There will be a live GPS Parade Tracker on the MIAPBC website. And don't forget to smile -- a drone will be overhead to capture it on video.
Most important, bring your toys ... and hope the weather gods are smiling this year.
Check back here for continuing coverage
Podcast: Alyssa Freeman