Inaugural Pardi Gras Boat Parade Let The Good Times Roll
by James Coulter
If two is company and three is a crowd, then an entire crowd let the good times roll at the inaugural Pardi Gras Boat Parade at Tanners Lakeside.
On Sunday, three decorated boats set sail from Tanners Lakeside and made their way along the Chain of Lakes for this inaugural parade.
Most of the boats were modestly decorated with the Mardi Gras colors of purple, gold, and green. One boat went above and beyond by decorating itself as a pirate ship with a crossbones sail and even a pirate crew.
Gordon Payne and his family were invited to participate with their pirate-themed boat. Since he had some pirate costumes, he had his children dressed as scurvy scallywags.
“It is pretty cool,” Payne said. “It is exciting. [I] just want kids to have a good time.”
Lena Johnson and her crew, meanwhile, decorated their pontoon boat with Mardi Gras-colored foil streamers. Not only did they participate in the boat parade, but they also participated in a birthday party later that afternoon.
“It is an honor and a privilege, and it is hot,” she said of participating in the overall event that afternoon. “We are happy to be here. The weather is beautiful. It was a fun event and a little underwhelming but that is okay, it will be fun. We like to help out, and being out on a pontoon boat is nothing but fun.”
The three participating vessels started at Tanners Lakeside earlier that afternoon and set sail around 3 p.m. They traveled along Lake Howard before sailing through Lake May and Shipp. Their route took them past Tanner’s Lakeside, Twisted Prop, Caribbean Bay, and Old Man Franks, where judges were stationed to choose the winning vessel.
Philip Van Winkle, event coordinator with Central Florida Boat Rentals, was inspired to start an event similar to the annual Christmas Boat Parade, which travels a similar boat route in December.
While the overall turnout did not quite meet expectations, nevertheless, the event experienced a “humble beginning” with high expectations that more attendees will turn out next year.
“We are real excited for the potential to grow into another major event for the city of Winter Haven,” he said. “We have our humble beginnings with just three boats…Next year should be bigger because there was limited notice given out this year. This was put together over the last month, so not a lot of advertising and promotion. It is a nice humble start for the first annual Paradi Gras boat parade.”