It's been more than seven decades since the first Naples Boat Parade floated through the Naples Canals in celebration of the holiday season, and this weekend, it's going to happen again.
"We basically do some work all year to get ready for this parade," John Schuman, parade co-chair, said. "Now it's happening Saturday, so we're just about done."
On Saturday, the 73rd annual Naples Island Boat Parade will be ready to shine with the theme "Christmas Under the Sea." Boats will move through the Naples canals and around Alamitos Bay featuring flashy lights, Christmas decor and anything that echoes holiday time on the water.
But getting parade ready is a process — and takes a village.
The parade is a Naples-wide volunteer effort, Schuman said, with planning for the event taking place as soon as the new year starts. And with the total cost adding up to about $20,000, there's a lot of work to be done before the boats can start sailing.
"The majority of that money is used to secure permits, police and fire presence, portable toilets and protective barriers, that kind of thing," he said, adding that the Port of Long Beach provided $5,000 as a parade sponsor.
The rest of the money was raised through Naples Improvement Association events, like the annual pancake breakfast and arts and crafts fair, as well as through neighborhood donors and additional sponsorship from AES California.
At 5 p.m., surrounding streets will begin to close to traffic. That's when people can start showing up and claiming a spot for viewing.
There is one major change to the parade layout. Due to the seawall rebuild project that is impacting the existing seawalls at The Colonnade, the south side and eastern end of Treasure Island and the western end of the Naples Peninsula, the walks on those canals are closed. But parade entries can get through on the water.
"We're excited that we are able to use the canal because of the rebuild," he said. "We want to give kudos to the construction workers that are moving the crane to the side so the boats can get by."
The end of the Colonnade will be closed along with sections of sidewalks on both sides. Sidewalks will also be closed on the east end of Treasure Island and the west end of Naples Island where it meets the Colonnade entrance. Those areas are fenced off and there is no way to walk through.
Spectators can bring chairs and coolers with food and refreshments, but alcohol cannot be consumed. Long Beach Police will be patrolling the event.
Large boats will line up along Lido Lane and off the sea wall in front of Naples Plaza and move along the canal and then exiting by Corso Di Napoli. The small boat parade will follow suit at around 6:30 p.m. and the show will start at about 7 p.m.
All vessels are judged on theme, lights, music, costumes, originality and best overall. Small boat judges will be along Rivo Alto Canal, but large boats are judged before the event, so participants are encouraged to show up early. Awards will be handed out in January.
Ride Share, Parking
Signs will be posted directing ride share vehicles, like Uber, Lyft and taxis, to drop off guests at the parking lots at the corner of The Toledo and Appian Way (Basin 4 of the Marina) and The Toledo and Venetia Drive (Naples Elementary School parking lot).
Parking is available at Alamitos Bay Marina near Second Street and Marina Drive. Mothers Beach off Ravenna Drove and Appian Way has metered parking. There also is a beach parking lot at Bayshore and Ocean Boulevard.
"A lot of work goes into this, but it's also fun to be a part of," Schuman said.
Carolers will be making rounds during the event and nearby restaurants will be open for guests to grab a bite to eat or coffee and hot chocolate. Area restaurants also offer views of the canal, but guests may want to show up earlier to secure a seat.
The 73rd annual Naples Island Boat Parade is happening at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 14, kicking off at the seawall near Naples Plaza.
For more information, go to naplesca.com.
Stephanie Stutzman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.