Decked in Santa hats, blinking accessories, and the occasional white beard, onlookers and boats alike were fully outfitted for Saturday’s annual St. Croix Christmas Boat Parade.
Now in its 21st year, the parade through Christiansted harbor was a festive opening to the 2015 holiday season.
The boardwalk was packed with onlookers. There were diners and patrons waiting to be seated at restaurants, groups mingling on balconies or overflowing into the walkway, and seated spectators who had come early enough to grab a space.
As the music of Ebenezer Methodist Steel Orchestra filled the crowded boardwalk, Boy Scout Troop 7227 was busy selling peanuts and water to raise funds to attend summer camp in New Jersey. They had set up a tent near Rum Runners, hoping to get as many passerby’s as possible.
“We can earn more merit badges, have new experiences, and meet new people,” said Phar-i Merchant, before returning to his post with the other Scouts.
While some were attracted by the crowds, others, such as Asta Evans and her husband, Gerald, decided to stay away from the traffic. They found a good spot on the lawn around Fort Christiansvaern with a full view of Hotel on the Cay.
“Usually we go to the other side but it’s too crowded,” Asta noted. “It’s better, it’s wide open.”
To their right, a row of bouncy castles in a variety of shapes, colors and themes swarmed with children. All around, other groups played football or soccer in the open spaces.
Evworth and Vernita Charles also chose to enjoy the parade from the park and especially enjoyed the addition of the bouncy houses.
“I like to see how they put up the bouncy for the kids. It’s like kids time, it gives kids a chance to do something different,” Charles said.
The two have been attending the boat parade since its inception, and noticed an improvement in the overall event. Now “more organized” and “better advertised,” it was an event that the couple looked forward to attending every year.
“It’s more family oriented, and we need more family-oriented things in the Virgin Islands,” Charles said.
Sisters Payten, 6, and Brielle, 10, were no strangers to the boat parade. They were looking forward to the decorated boats and especially the Santas.
“I think it’s really amazing and fun,” said Brielle, who was accessorized in a cheery Christmas hat.
With a drone flying overhead and illuminated stand up paddle boarders ushering the first of the boats, the show began shortly after 6 p.m. The parade was led by a boat from St Croix Ultimate Bluewater Adventures. Cut-outs of leaping dolphins and fish surrounded a large inflatable Santa at the bow.
The highlight of the parade, however, was a boat towards the rear. Decorated with white lights and equipped with a live band, the boat delighted onlookers by sending sprays water towards the crowd. Untouched by the water, spectators yelped at the display.
Jane Akin, Christmas necklace blinking with multicolored lights, echoed the feelings of many who attended the event.
“It’s just fun,” she said. “It’s a party!”