The line of 17 watercraft floated slowly along the Carrabelle waterfront, their glowing lights reflected in the calm waters.
On the shore onlookers cheered and whistled, wishing them a Merry Christmas and receiving the salutation in return.
It was a beautiful return to the grandeur of the annual Boat Parade of Lights, the highlight of Carrabelle’s Holiday on the Harbor last Saturday.
After a down COVID year in 2020, organized by area businesses, the Carrabelle Chamber of Commerce oversaw the rejuvenation of this favorite Christmas tradition.
Beginning at 11 a.m.,the free event in downtown Carrabelle featured, of course, a visit with Santa, the Captain Davy Pirate and Magic Show, Mr. John’s free train rides, a bouncy house, local musician Cody Barber, plenty of great food vendors, church booths and arts and crafts.
Gradually, the crowd grew in size, as folks from near and far gathered along the water to take in the many boats decorated with lights for the occasion.
At one point a small girl fell off a dock into the water, but her dad quickly retrieved her, wrapped her in a blanket and she was soon all smiles after she dried off.
Judges for the parade were County Commissioner Jessica Ward, and City Commissioners Tony Millender and Sebrina Brown.
They chose Charlie Painter’s watercraft as Best of Show, after he had taken top prize in the boats that ranged in length from 20 to 24 feet. Taking second place among that category were Lewis and Celecia Christie’s watercraft., with Joel Humphrey’s boat in second place.
Taking top prize among the boats over 24-feet long was the one piloted by Roon Niemans, with Carl Whaley’s in second place and Will McMorris’ watercraft in third.
The Marina Challenge was a three-way tie between MS Dockside Marina, Moorings of Carrabelle, and C-Quarters Marina, the latter of which was where the trophies were awarded.
Among the participants was a spirited crew aboard the “Grinch Boat,” which had transformed Capt. Ben Harrell’s “Right Here Right Now” vessel.
The boat has been a part of the parade for the past five years and used to tote about a half-dozen Santas. But this year, Ben and Shirley Harrell decided instead to add an 11-foot inflatable Grinch, with a bright glowing red heart that grew three times bigger. They adorned it with snowflakes and green lights and ornaments and a Santa sack.
Shirley Harrell said the only downside had been that son Justin and wife Nicolette had been unable to make it. But newcomers to the vessel were the Harrells’ younger son Andrew and his girlfriend Alexandra Land.
“The Holiday on the Harbor and Boat Parade of Lights was a huge success,” said Lori Dougherty, director of the Carrabelle Chamber of Commerce. “Thank you all for coming out and supporting the community and participating in this memorable event.”