It was a dark and stormy night Saturday in Carrabelle, threatening the Christmas spirit.
But no matter. The organizers of this year’s Boat Parade of Lights & Holiday On The Harbor simply moved the event to Sunday night, and it came off wonderfully.
A chill was in the air as 15 boats, each decorated with lights, delighted onlookers from the shore, and once it was complete, the sky blazed with fireworks.
“We think for having it rescheduled we did lose about five boats that weren’t able to stay for Sunday,” said Sheila Hauser, with the Carrabelle Chamber of Commerce, which oversaw the parade. “Two pontoon boats, a sailboat and two smaller boats, 25-footers.”
She said the decision to postpone was made by Hauser and Chamber Director Suzanne Zimmerman in consultation with Capt. Russell Cahoon with Towboat US, who has led the parade for more than two decades. “We decided to reschedule it because of inclement weather coming in, for safety reasons basically,” said Hauser.
The decision did cut into the success of the Holiday on the Harbor festivities, organized by Carrabelle Cares, the Carrabelle Waterfront Partnership and the city.
“Before the rain we had a huge number of vendors and we ended up with a few,” said Tamara Allen, the partnership’s program manager. “Everybody begged off because of the weather. It was impaired a lot by the rain.
“It was a pretty good community effort I thought,” she said. “I hope we’ll get good weather again so we can have everything. We’ll just wait for next year and hope it will be better.”
Senior Services out of Wakulla County, which serves the eastern end of Franklin County’s Meals on Wheels offered food, cookies and gift baskets that seniors had made. The Church of the Ascension sold coffee to raise funds for the food pantry, which had hot cider and cold drinks. The First Baptist Church of Carrabelle gave out hot chocolate and water, plus there were homemade goodies proffered by pastry chef Sally Crown, and handmade jewelry by Harriett Beach.
Santa Claus was on hand, arranged by Hershell Blanchett, with help from elves Brenda La Paz and Greg Kristofferson.
Unfortunately, the professional band lined up for Saturday had to be cancelled but songstress Debi Jordan (www.debijordan.com) performed at C-Quarters for the third year, offering selections from her new "Christmas Songs" CD.
Local businessman Bo May served as chair of the judges committee who reviewed the entries at C-Quarters. Publisher Chuck Spicer emceed the event at the marina.
Without question the watercraft that drew the most cheers was the 65-foot catamaran “RV Apalachee,” provided by the Florida State University Coastal and Marine Laboratory. Its speakers blared the Seminole war chant, and “the crowd went crazy,” said Hauser.
The FSU boat took top honors in the division for recreational boars over 40 feet, with second place going to Capt. Jim Delveau from Muscatine, Iowa with the 40-foot trawler "Gray Fox."
Best of Show went to Scott and Rachel Lawley, from Tallahassee, for their 32-foot SeaRay cruiser “Sea Jockey,” which also was the best recreational boat over 30 feet.
John and Roberta Beasley from Port St. Joe, with their 19-foot Key Largo "Baby” took top honors in the division for recreational boats under 23 feet, with second place going to Eric and Jake Cichy and American Legion Post 82 for their 19-foot Cape Horn "Reality Escape" and third to Chad Gillikin for his 23-foot Proline.
The top recreational boat over 24 feet was Tommy Merrell with the Carrabelle First Baptist Church Youth and a 28-foot Pro Kat "Knot Ready," with second going to Eric and Angela Pfeufer from Dockside Marina and Fathom's Raw Bar for their 24 foot Carolina Skiff "Eric's Dream.”
In the commercial boat division for those under 20 feet, first place went to Moorings Marina, which featured Patty Lee and an 18-foot shrimp boat. For those commercial boats over24 feet, first went to Natural World Charters, featuring Capt. Chester Reese and Sherry with a 24-foot Morgan "The Eagle," and second to Tow Boat US, piloted by Capt. Russell Cahoon and Amy.
The Kayak Division Award went to Capt. Tom Herzog. The Marina Challenge Award, for the marina with the most boats in parade, was given to C-Quarters Marina.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission with Charlie Wood was awarded a trophy for their continuous support in the Captain's Meeting and their assistance on the water during the parade.
The evening concluded with a spectacular fireworks display, funded by a $2,500 contribution from the city.