BRADENTON BEACH – The celebration spotlight Saturday night was on Bridge Street as merchants opened their stores, offering snacks and drinks to shoppers and a lighted boat parade took to the water off of the Bridge Street Pier. Despite the cooler weather, shoppers came out to see the decorations and participate in the annual holiday celebration.
The Anna Maria Island Privateers held a fundraiser at the Drift In and musicians Steve Arvey, Rebecca Bird and Deacon Gibson performed from a flatbed trailer that went up and down the street. There were also songs from the Manatee School for the Arts Thespian Troupe 6458 who were raising money for traveling competitions.
The heart of the city’s commercial district was festively decorated by the public works department with holiday lights around public signs, streetlights and the Bridge Street clock. Visitors posed for photos and selfies in front of the Christmas tree in the roundabout at the east end of the street.
As 7 p.m. neared, the people headed for the pier to get a look at the Bradenton Beach Holiday Boat Parade. Twelve boats competed for the top prize, along with the Bradenton Beach police boat.
Participating boaters gathered at the north side of the Cortez Bridge and at 6:30 p.m., they turned on their lights and paraded in a circle by the Seafood Shack, and then they lined up for the 7 p.m. opening of the drawbridge. When it opened, they sailed south close to the Cortez side of the bay and went down to Longboat Pass, where they turned around and headed south near Anna Maria Island. As they did, the crowd on the pier cheered and took pictures of the boats up close.
Eric Jones and his crew won the $200 prize for the best-decorated boat.
Organizer Mike Bazzy called the parade a success and said he would organize another one next year.