Venice boat parade expects to draw a crowd

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VENICE, Fla. - Venice is gearing up for the 25th annual Venice Christmas Boat Parade. This year's event almost didn't happen, but enough participants signed up just in time.

There are already chairs lining the Intracoastal Waterway, which is good news for parade organizers.

"Got to get here early," says Venice resident Jerry Madden. And by ‘early’, he doesn’t mean a few hours before, but a few days. He’s one of many who have already staked out a claim. "The fact that people bring their chairs, any other equipment, two and three days ahead of the parade."

So what's in a chair? Other than what you physically put in it? Venice's mayor says it speaks volumes. "It says a couple things. Number one, people are excited. They are setting up early. Number two, how many communities can you go into and put your chairs down for four, five, six days and the chairs are still there," says John Holic.

Those chairs may even keep some business owners from sitting down. "It's gonna be a good day. There are usually lots of families and kids," says Anita Deans at Anita’s Sandcastle.

It's estimated that upwards of 60,000 people will line the route from Nokomis to Venice, with many hitting up nearby restaurants before and after.

Deans sells hotdogs on the jetty at Anita's Sandcastle and says the buns which will fill these seats will be buying plenty of hers, too. "It's good for business. It really is. I have heard of other places having a lottery for spots. It is a good day."

This 25th year of the parade almost didn't happen – clearly not from a lack of spectators, but because there were not enough vessels. A last minute pitch got some fannies in gear. "I think it is a lot greater than anybody realizes. With the crowds we have because we start in Nokomis and come up through Venice, the land parades can't even touch it," says event president John Omulski.

It's expected that nearly 50 boats will be in parade this year. They're all competing for the best displays.

The parade will start at 6pm near the Albee Road bridge in Nokomis, then heads south and partially out the jetties at Venice Inlet, then continues south through Roberts Bay and all the way down the Intracoastal Waterway to just north of the Circus Bridge.