For more information about the Boat Parade of Lights, call (850) 763-7359 or (850) 872-7240.
PANAMA CITY BEACH — A parade of lights will trail through the bay tonight in the 24th annual boat decorating festival.
This year’s theme encourages participants to bedazzle their boats with displays of team spirit, event volunteer Ronnie Barnes said. She’s expecting to see boats and riders decked out in team colors as they peacock along Beach Drive toward the St. Andrews Marina.
The Boat Parade of Lights started “back in the day,” Barnes said, when “everybody had their boats and they just wanted to show them off.”
“It’s been building through the years,” she added. “Some boats are just gorgeous; they look just like they’re dripping in jewels.”
More than a dozen captains already have signed up for the parade, and Barnes said she thinks another dozen or so will register Friday evening at a planning meeting.
Husband and wife team Nancy and Rick Ackerman, who cruise riverboat Betsy Ann through the bay area, will lead the parade for the fourth consecutive year. This is Betsy Ann’s fifth year in the contest, Nancy Ackerman said.
The couple strung more than 3,000 holiday lights on the boat, along with yards of hand-adorned garland, Nancy Ackerman said, and they’ve asked Betsy Ann’s passengers to dress in their favorite teams’ colors.
“It has the homemade touch, I would say,” she said.
The parade, which will start in the Cove at the Panama City Yacht Club, will wind by the Panama City Marina for judging and end at the St. Andrews Marina. There, a “big party” replete with a 20-foot television set to broadcast football games, a snow machine, a nighttime farmers market and live music will entertain revelers, Barnes said.
The best view of the parade likely will be from Beach Drive, she added, and the after-parade party is free. The parade kicks off at 4 p.m. and entertainment will go until 10 p.m.
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