Elma Ruiz was eagerly looking forward to participating in the annual Christmas boat parade. So when she found out the parade had been canceled, she decided to organize the event herself.

“Elma came out one day and said they are canceling the boat parade,” said Lucille Cavoly, co-owner of Burger Shack. “She wanted to be in it, and wanted to keep it going. “She wanted to save Christmas for the Island.”

The Port Isabel Chamber of Commerce had hosted the Port Isabel-South Padre Island Christmas Lighted Boat Parade over the past 29 years. But in early November, the Chamber announced it would no longer be hosting the event due to a lack of participants.

When word got around, some residents decided they needed to do something to keep the tradition alive.

“I just thought it was really important to step up and give it a try,” said Ruiz, Burger Shack co-owner. “I wish I had known it was in trouble because I would have gotten involved sooner.” Because of those efforts, this year will mark the 30th annual boat parade that Port Isabel shares with the Island.

Ruiz and Cavoly had some flyers designed to announce the parade and passed them out around town to spark interest. Cavoly said 10 boats have been registered by willing participants and they expect more people to sign up. Over the years boat owners, personal watercraft owners, kayakers and owners of anything that floats have been invited to be a part of the event. Ruiz is still working on decorating her boat to get it ready for the parade.

The parade begins at the South point Marina. From there, it makes its way across the Laguna Madre, along the bayfront of South Padre Island and ends at Jim’s Pier. The boats will be judged at Jim’s Pier and an awards ceremony will be held at Louie’s Backyard immediately after the judging. Viewing areas can be found at several waterfront restaurants and docks. Cavoly said spectators who are familiar with the event know where to get a good view of the spectacle.

There are cash prizes and gift certificates for the participants with the best decorated boat. The judging criteria will include first impression, theme and special effects. Winners will receive a variety of prizes donated by area merchants, including gift certificates, marine items and much more. There is no charge to enter the parade. Port Isabel police will be carrying Santa Claus on the final boat.

“So many people have told us stories how they like to decorate their boat every year and that it’s a great holiday tradition,” Ruiz said.