Boaters ready for Jax Light Parade

Published On: Nov 20 2012 02:23:32 PM EST
Updated On: Nov 21 2012 07:10:24 AM EST

VIDEO: Participants in this years Jacksonville Light Parade almost didn't happen due to funding.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

The 28th annual Jacksonville Light Parade is ready to set sail.

A couple weeks ago, organizers were concerned they wouldn't get the funds and would have to scuttle Saturday night's boat parade on the St. Johns River.

While they're still a little short on donations, Jacksonville boaters are gearing up for the longtime tradition.

The show will feature fireworks and a waterfall from the bridge, which is always a crowd-pleaser.

This year's celebration was almost a loss.

"It's a real grassroots thing," said Buddy Haskell, of the Jacksonville Marine Association. "The boaters just absolutely have a good time, they'll spend two months getting their boat ready for this thing."

The parade was a victim of city budget cuts last year, but it was saved by a private-public partnership.

For decades, boats have gone all out, lighting up the St. Johns River the weekend after Thanksgiving.

"Every budget is what it is, we understand that, and this year is tougher than last year, but we'll get there with the help of every little donation that we get," Haskell said.

Last year, there were about 70 boats in the parade. On Saturday, there'll be about 100.

The event draws about 250,000 people downtown every year.

"They'll see a lot of lights on the boats," Haskell said. "It's just such a festive night activity for the boaters. It's an opportunity for everyone in Jacksonville to enjoy the river."

Vicky and John Lennon have been participants for 22 years.

"We started when our children were small, and now we've had the opportunity to work with our grandchildren," John said. "It is a family event."

The Lennons say it's a holiday staple for Jacksonville and hopes the city will resume paying for it next year.

"It's just one of the premier ways Jacksonville can showcase its beauty," John said.

The parade is scheduled for 7 p.m. Saturday. Boats launch from Metropolitan Park and head up to the Main Street Bridge, before coming back down the Southbank and ending near the Duval County School Board building.

If you're interested in donating money to sponsor the parade, go to www.BoatJax.com.

For more information on road closures and traffic patterns for the Christmas tree lighting at the Jacksonville Landing on Friday night and the Light Parade on Saturday night, click here.

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