Thousands of spectators lined the shoreline of the Laguna Madre Bay Saturday evening to enjoy the annual  South Padre Island Lighted Boat Parade.

A phalanx of vessels departed from Southmost Marina in Port Isabel at 6pm, crossed under the Queen Isabella Causeway, then cruised along the waterline from Palm Street to Jim’s Pier in the entertainment district. Every available parking space on the bayside was filled as parade goers looked for viewing spots to see the brightly lit, cheerfully decorated holiday boats.

Restaurants and bars were packed with customers, the brisk business being welcomed by merchants during what is usually a slow time of the year. Claudia Hernandez, her husband and 3 children were one of the many families who travelled to the Island to witness the floating parade.

“We live up in McAllen and have always wanted to come to this boat parade, but this is the first time we finally made it down to the Island to see it,” Hernandez said, while her middle child, Araceli, exclaimed “I wanna see Santa!” eliciting chuckles from her family. Claudia’s husband, Rosendo, commented, saying “This is a beautiful display on the bay, the colored lights reflecting on the water are incredible.”

Photo by Pamela Cody.

This was the 31st year of the parade, making it one of the most popular and long standing traditions on South Padre Island. Boats of all sizes were in the procession, from small personal watercraft to large commercial vessels. Designs were whimsical and varied, from the Grinch and Santa to frolicking dolphins, reindeer, snowmen and candy canes.

Winter Texans Bob and Phyllis Mullins, visiting from Kenosha, Wisconsin, were witnessing their first Island boat parade. Phyllis reflected on the spirit of the season, noting “Seeing the whole community come out and get into the holiday spirit, it really makes it feel like Christmas. Small town celebrations are the best, this is what it’s about – families together, kids, Santa, and all the magic of the Christmas season.”

There were 3 categories of boat sizes for the judge’s consideration. In the small/medium category, Tritoon Charters took first place, followed by Having Faith and We Fish You a Merry Christmas in second and third; in the large boat division, Daddy’s Hands took top honors, with Tula and Noemi II coming in second and third; in the commercial category, Breakaway Tours captured the top prize, with second and third going to Murphy’s Law and Ka Motion.

-Pamela Cody