Christmas boat parade in search of more vessels

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VENICE, Fla. - Time is running out for the Venice Christmas Boat Parade. Organizers say not enough participants have signed up, and that means the event might not see its 25th year and some local students and charities will go without.

Every year, thousands of spectators line the Intracoastal Waterway from Nokomis to Venice. But organizers do not want to pull the permits and put in the work if not enough boaters want to be in it. They say Thursday is the last day to get enough.

Chairs usually start to line the waterway days before the event, held the first Saturday in December.

"There are so many people, and the rush of them cheering you on." For years, John Osmulski captained the first boat in the parade. "This would be the 25th year if it takes place."

"If" is the big question. After seven years of 45 plus boats, the number last year dropped to 35. At the beginning of this week, just 10 boats had been registered.

"Some of the boaters are older and don't want to operate at night. We do have a lot of fair-weather boaters down here. We need the new generation of boaters to pick up the torch," says Osmulski.

Organizers say they don't want to pull expensive permits, buy awards, and other odds and ends if not enough are involved. With just a day left to register, potential onlookers are hoping they can pull it together.

"Hopefully they get it together, because the people of Venice and the surrounding people all really enjoy it and want it to happen again," says fan Larry Duppstadt.

"It would be a big loss for the community. I don't think the community would even understand how much of a loss until after it is gone," says Osmulski.

Not shoving off would cost more than festivities. Entrance fees and sponsorships to the not for profit now run by Osmulski go right back into the community. "In eight years we have given away $19,000 in scholarships to Venice High School seniors, and another $60,000 to youth boating and the Wildlife Center of Venice, All Faiths Food Bank."

That listing includes many more organizations.

Osmulski is hoping this vessel can right itself in time. "Maybe we can get the word out and keep this tradition going."

The Freedom Boat Club in town says they'll pay the entrance fee of the next 50 boats that register. The deadline to register is Thursday, but we're guessing that if you get the application to the organization soon they'll take them. All you have to do is go to their website at