The Port Isabel Chamber of Commerce this week announced that it was canceling its annual Port Isabel Lighted Boat Parade.

The event, which would have celebrated its 29th year next month, typically occurs in December. Lack of participation ultimately drove the Chamber to cancel the event, said Chamber Director Betty Wells Tuesday.
“We don’t want the event to go away, we just have to get a way to get more boats involved,” Wells said.
Last year, 11 boats participated in the parade, in which boats followed a route along the bayside of South Padre Island and down towards the waterfront establishments on Port Isabel.
Wells said that in her 12 years with the Chamber, she has seen as many as 32 boats participate in the parade. “But at that point in time, we had some of the local government boats involved,” she said. That included boats from the U.S. Coast Guard and other law enforcement agencies. In recent years, though, those agencies have not participated/
Local charter boats once participated in the event more frequently, as well.
“There have been some years we’ve had as few as five or six (boats),” Wells said.
An announcement of the cancellation posted to Facebook garnered several comments of disappointment from local residents who said they looked forward to the parade every year. Wels said the hiatus is not meant to be a permanent one, but instead, the Chamber hopes to research how the make the parade more successful in the future. She said she hoped hear suggestions from the community and that the Chamber is reaching out to other waterfront communities that host boat parades.
Other reasons for this year’s cancellation included changes to the parade route after larger boats were prohibited from passing through the White Sands area of Port Isabel due to accumulated silting in the channels there. “In the past, they were able to go through the channel by White Sands, and now they cannot,” Wells said.
Too, participants vied for prizes on various categories. Those prizes were donated from local businesses, “Last year, we really didn’t have the response that we needed for the giveaways for the prizes, either,” Wells said. Boats were not charged to enter the parade.
Port Isabel City Manager Jared Hockema expressed his regrets that the parade had been canceled. “I’m sad to hear that it’s not going to go forward,” he said. Hockema added that the City regularly helps sponsor the parade by allocating funds form the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) to it. “We do give money to them. The EDC gives them money,’ he said.
Wells said the Chamber is hopeful about bringing back a bigger and better boat parade. “I want to encourage people in regards to the boat parade to communicate with us… so we can better reach the boating market,” she said.

– By Dina Arevalo