This weekend may be one full of hustle and bustle as folks scramble to finish holiday preparations. For those in search of something a little more relaxing, two coastal waterways will come alive with the glow of boats decorated with Christmas lights and decorations.
Spectators have a choice of the Weeki Wachee River boat parade or the Hernando Beach Yacht Club's parade along the main canal, both on Saturday evening.
High tide, clear skies and mild weather should provide perfect conditions for the processions.
"Mother Nature was not good to us last year," said yacht club Fleet Capt. Bob Chandler, who is organizing this year's parade. "The fog was terrible. … This year, we need a clear, safe night."
The entry fee for boats in either parade is a donation of a toy for a child in need. Donations from the Hernando Beach parade will benefit Hernando Helping Hands; gifts collected at the Weeki Wachee parade will benefit the Dawn Center, Hernando County's shelter for abused women and children.
"A gift card or cash is always good for the older children," said Weeki Wachee parade organizer Jim Lanier Jr. of the Weeki Wachee Marina. "It makes it easier to buy the gifts they want. Any amount, $5 or $50 … everything helps."
The Hernando Beach parade will launch at 6 p.m. from the yacht club, proceed through the main channel to the public boat ramp, then return to the club. The Coast Guard Auxiliary and Hernando County Sheriff's Office will assist with the parade.
Those wishing to participate in the parade may register from 3 to 6 p.m. today at the yacht club. Trophies will be awarded for the best original theme, best lighted and funniest. At the club, hot dogs, chili, chips and drinks will be available for spectators.
The Weeki Wachee parade, sponsored by Weeki Wachee Marina, starts at 6:30 p.m. at Rogers Park, on the Weeki Wachee River. The procession will travel 1 mile to the Bayport pier and back. Participants will compete for trophies and gift certificates to the Upper Deck and BeckyJack's restaurants.
For the best view of the parade, Lanier suggests claiming a spot either at Rogers Park or the Bayport pier area. Coastline Realty Services will provide seating at Rogers Park.
"There is also a great view from the Upper Deck" restaurant, Lanier said.
Organizers of both parades expect about a dozen participants; additional boats are welcome.
"Everyone does a really good job," Lanier said. "A few have been working on their boats since November, but some start decorating on Saturday."