Gulfport’s Boat Parade Lights up the Bay

The first-place winner out of 20 boats entered was the Mirage-Sea Scout Ship 915 sporting a lighted tree mounted to the mast of the sailboat, a dolphin with a red nose leaping from the bow and four fish mounted along the starboard railing.

The 33rd-annual Boca Ciega Yacht Club (BCYC) Lighted Christmas Boat Parade featured 20 entries and plenty of cheer on Saturday, December 8.

Led by Gulfport Police Sergeant Robert Burkhart and Councilmember Michael Fridovich in the department’s patrol boat, the entrants mustered in the city’s marina and paraded by the shoreline of the yacht club located at 4600 Tifton Dr. S. before beginning their parade route in Boca Ciega Bay.

A group of 32 business and government sponsors provided gifts for all of the participants. 

The parade’s three judges who selected the top 10 entries were Gulfport’s 2018 Gecko Queen Jon Ziegler along with Renee Best and Rey Lastra both of St. Petersburg.

According to the rules of the parade, members and non-members of the BCYC with sail or powered vessels were invited to participate and the entry fee was at least two unwrapped children’s presents or a check made out to “Operation Santa,” the annual local toy drive sponsored by the Gulfport Police Department. 

The drive is celebrating its 27th year. For more information, including how to donate to it or to qualify a local child, call the Operation Santa hotline at 727-893-1097.

The 10 winners, in order by boat name, were Mirage, Sandy Claws, Dangler, Connection to Water, Annie B., Seahawk, Ocean Hiatus, Ding Dong, Aquasition and Bella Vita, said Samanta Ring, the co-chair of the 2018 parade. The other co-chair was Kim Westerfield.

Serving as the 2018 parade judges were, from left, Gulfport’s 2018 Gecko Queen Jon Ziegler along with Renee Best and Rey Lastra both of St. Petersburg.

Pictured from left are Gulfport Police Sergeant Robert Burkhart, captain of the parade’s pace boat; Francine Whitten, lead elf for the police department’s Operation Santa toy drive; Samantha Ring, co-chair of the 2018 Boca Ciega Yacht Club (BCYC) Lighted Christmas Boat Parade; Gulfport Police Officer Brandon Dillard as a Santa Claus helper; BCYC Rear Commodore Nick Southard; Gulfport Councilmember Michael Fridovich; and Police Services Supervisor Cynthia Hayes who is also an elf for Operation Santa.

Third place in the parade was award to the Dangler owned by Steve Wallace, a powered vessel decorated with lights that was also pulling a dinghy holding a lighted Christmas tree and two snowmen.

Fourth place was captured by a sailboat named Connection to Water owned by Stefan Kaschkadayev and Wendy Shelton that included lighted trees and a live Santa surfing off the bow.


Tenth place was awarded to a sailboat named Bella Vita decorated with a lighted mast tree and two leaping dolphins owned by Mary Simpson and Gary Gertis, both of Largo. Pictured from left are parade judge and Gulfport’s 2018 Gecko Queen Jon Ziegler, Gertis and Simpson. The boat began taking on water at the beginning of the parade so it competed from the parking lot of the sponsoring yacht club.




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