Fourteen teams that braved last Saturday’s bumpy sea conditions to compete in Reef Environmental Education Foundation’s fifth winter lionfish derby in the Upper Keys managed to whack an impressive …
Low Key Christmas Boat Parade in Paradise
By Sue Cocking, Guy Harvey Outpost staff writer
The parade’s Grand Marshal was a mentalist who performs card tricks in Vegas. The winning floats featured a western saloon and the Grinch who stole Christmas. One year, a rescue boat had to be deployed to shore in the middle of the event to fetch a corkscrew for wine guzzling party goers on the lead boat.
Welcome to the Key Largo Holiday Boat Parade– the antithesis of its glitzy counterpart to the north, the Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest Parade held the same night in Fort Lauderdale. I was at the Key Largo event, and I bet it was a lot more fun.
For one thing, nobody had to close any bridges or re-route traffic to accommodate the parade route. There was a lone security guard helping park cars in the Sundowners restaurant lot near the docks where many of the boats staged, and the parade itself just made a big circle through Blackwater Sound. With only 22 vessels participating, it didn’t take all night.
I got to ride on the lead boat, a 52-foot motoryacht called Kenny’s Kork skippered by Captain Spencer Slate, owner/operator of the Guy Harvey Outpost dive outfitter in Tavernier. Slate has served as either grand marshal or captain of the lead boat for all 30 years of the event. This year’s grand marshal was Henry Rosenthal– a prominent Keys businessman and self-styled mentalist with the stage name of “Bastille”. (Why he chose the name of a French prison, I never found out.) The boat was packed with lots of revelers drinking beer and wine and chowing down on a delicious catered buffet prepared by Sundowners.
As the procession chugged slowly along the shoreline, gaggles of spectators cheered from docks, back porches and waterfront restaurants. Kenny’s Kork was followed by an assortment of lit-up motorboats and a flotilla of kayaks from Florida Bay Outfitters.
One colorfully-lighted kayak carried a paddler with a blow-up penguin standing in the bow.
“Isn’t he festive?” the kayaker called to us.
Another kayak carried Santa Claus; others bore fake palm trees lined with white lights and one double kayak sported a manger scene in the rear seat.
“For me, this parade transforms December into Christmas time,” said Key Largo businesswoman Laurie Scanlon.
The parade ended back at Sundowners where the judges convened to decide which floats should win prizes. While they deliberated, “Bastille” performed his signature show on the restaurant’s patio stage. It involved lots of audience participation and shuffling of decks of playing cards. Kenny’s Kork’s owner was so enthralled that he tipped the performer a C-note.
Finally, it was time for the announcement of the winners by emcee captain Skip Bradeen, a popular veteran charterboat captain and local radio personality.
The award for best overall float went to the Grinch who stole Christmas– one of Slate’s dive boats lovingly decorated over two days by his daughter Sky and ex-wife Annette and their friends. The Grinch’s light display was stunning and creative and Sky was compellingly costumed as the Grinch while Annette looked fetching as Cindy Lou Who in her blonde top-knot wig. Admirers quickly moved in to take selfies with the winning team.
What a hoot. Hope I get invited back next year!
Sue Cocking chronicles the Guy Harvey Outpost travel and adventure experience in regular blog posts on GuyHarveyOutpostNews.com/. For 21 years, Cocking covered the full spectrum of outdoors adventure opportunities in South Florida and beyond for the Miami Herald, including fishing, diving, hunting, paddling camping, sailing and powerboat racing. She is a certified scuba diver and holder of an IGFA women’s world fly fishing record for a 29-pound permit.
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