December 5, 2018

Contributed
Marathon Marina and Resort's gingerbread house-themed entry won the 2015 boat parade.

Contributed Marathon Marina and Resort's gingerbread house-themed entry won the 2015 boat parade.

MARATHON — The 22nd annual Boot Key Harbor Christmas Boat Parade begins at 6 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 8, at the west end of Boot Key Harbor on the Seven Mile Bridge side. Boats will head east through the harbor at Sombrero Marina to end at Lazy Days South at Marathon Marina and Resort for a post parade awards party at approximately 8:30 p.m.

This is the first year that Marathon Marina and Resort is hosting the event.

Greg Absten founded the community event in 1997 and retired in 2015 after naming Marathon Marina’s boat entry as the most beautiful.

“We felt compelled to take it on. We couldn’t let such a long-standing tradition go,” said Susan Pritchard, Marathon Marina general manager. She’s hoping the event never gets old, and as host and former winner, she said the marina will not be competing this year.

“We had a houseboat decorated as a gingerbread house. We had Santa and his sleigh up top and we dressed as elves and sang Christmas carols. It was quite the boat,” Pritchard said of the marina’s prize-winning entry.

Instead, Marathon Marina has loaned out decorations to those who may have lost theirs during Hurricane Irma.

The Boot Key Harbor parade hasn’t taken place in the last two years.

“In 2016, we had really high winds and last year there was just too much debris because of [Hurricane] Irma, so it wasn’t safe,” Pritchard said. “We’re hoping for good weather.”

If inclement weather prevails, the boats will be judged dockside at Marathon Marina.

Optimal viewing for the lighted boat parade is available at Marathon Marina, Lazy Days South, Pancho’s Fuel Dock, Burdines Waterfront and Sombrero Marina Dockside.

There is a $500 grand cash prize for the best overall entry. First- and second-place awards will be given to boats in three categories: 20 feet and under, 21 to 35 feet in length, and larger than 36 feet.

Pritchard is still rounding out her selection of judges to include three people unassociated with the marine boating community.

The boat parade will be led by a U.S. Coast Guard boat and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will also participate, according to Pritchard. Sea Tow and Fish and Fun Boat Rentals will also be vying as business entries.

“The rest are privately owned boats with the largest being 60 feet and the smallest 20 feet, so far,” Pritchard added.

Beginning at 6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 7, the Marathon Marina is inviting the community to view the boats up close by walking the docks. The marina is located at 1021 11th St., oceanside.

Guests are invited to bring an unwrapped children’s gift for Toys for Tots.

For more information, visit bootkeyharbor.com or contact Pritchard at 305-743-6575.

tjava@keysnews.com