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Inside The Key West Lighted Boat Parade

If you are going to be in Key West during the second week of December, there is one special event that you will not want to miss.

The 23rd annual Schooner Wharf Bar and Galley Lighted Boat Parade is an island tradition that will help you get the holidays started with some tropical festivities that are uniquely Key West. This is a family event that combines creativity, beauty, and nautical flair to bring out yearly crowds ready to usher in the Key West Christmas season.

Spectators can watch from the docks, or from the verandas of seaside dining establishments like the Hot Tin Roof Restaurant at the Ocean Key Resort and Spa as a diverse gathering of watercraft ranging from canoes and Kayaks to sailing yachts and Coast Guard cutters pass by in a display of amazing lighting and décor. The crew of each craft tries to outdo the rest with clever designs or shear quantities of lights. Sailboats with hulls and rigging outlined with strings of thousands of twinkling lights present a spectacular sight that children will love. Add in the beads and candies that many boat crew members toss to the crowds, and you have a good time guaranteed for all.

The evening begins at 6:00 pm with Christmas music performed by The Gerald Adams Elementary School Steel Your Heart Band on stage at Schooner Wharf, followed by more carols from The Doerfels, a talented family of singers young and old. The Boys and Girls Club of the Keys offers a giant prize wheel, holiday beverages, and handmade ornaments as charitable fundraising activities for their organization. A Conch shell blowing contest, spinning ornaments, dancing gingerbread men, and more special sights and sounds add to the flavor of this Key West maritime holiday festival. Later, you can watch Santa’s sleigh arrive at the judge’s stand at the Schooner Wharf Bar, where holiday libations and a traditional ham dinner are available to kick off the Christmas season or an evening of enjoying the Key West Nightlife.

The parade is not all fun and games, however. There is serious competition among the owners and crews of the many vessels entered in the parade, and long hours are spent in the design and decoration work that goes into preparing boats for the event. At stake are more than $20,500 in prizes and a free raffle valued at over $4000. Not to mention a year’s worth of bragging rights claimed by the lucky winners.

All of the fun takes place on Saturday, December 15, with the parade beginning at 8:00 pm as the lighted boats begin their cruise through Key West Harbor and the waters of the Historic Seaport. There are several Key West Oceanfront Hotels that provide excellent walking access to the festivities. Or take a Key West Sunset Cruise and arrive back just in time for the parade. No matter how you want to schedule it, you want to be there at the Schooner Wharf Bar and Galley Lighted Boat Parade for a one-of-a-kind Key West holiday celebration.

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