The annual event on Lake Virginia and Lake Osceola includes a holiday boat parade and a dazzling water ski show.
Ready for a Winter Park holiday celebration on the lakes?
A floating tradition will keep on cruising forward as the 11th annual Winter Park Boat Parade and Water Ski Extravaganza takes place at 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 15, at Rollins College. The event will give residents a special holiday experience while promoting local food pantries.
About 30 boats decked out in holiday decorations will travel down a parade route through Lake Virginia and Lake Osceola.
The holiday festivities on the water — organized by the Winter Park Rotary Club — take place in two parts: a water ski show at 3 p.m. that can be viewed from the beach just south of the Rollins College student center, and the boat parade at 6 p.m. that can be seen from the viewing lawn near the Cornell Fine Arts Museum. The boat parade will be seen from all around Lake Virginia and Lake Osceola though, as it follows a route that starts at Dinky Dock, circles all of Lake Virginia, passes the Cornell Fine Arts Museum to leave an impression on a group of judges, continues through a canal to Lake Osceola, and finally circles that lake, as well.
“Having a Christmas-themed project and event that also gives back to the students in the community is really what we’re trying to accomplish here,” Winter Park Rotary Club President Jeffrey Blydenburgh said. “It’s fun for everybody.”
Something that makes this year unique is the $500 first-prize award up for grabs for the best overall boat. There also will be prizes recognizing the best Winter Park boat and the best Santa Claus boat.
The parade on water originally was organized by a couple Rotary Club members and was hosted by the Albin Polasek Museum for several years; Rollins College will be hosting the viewing area for the first time this year. Since its inception, the parade has seen a broad range of creative decorations on the boats — from Winter Park peacocks to Margaritaville-inspired façades.
“It’s just fun — people do a variety of things on their boats,” Blydenburgh said. “You just never quite know what’s going to show up.”
Blydenburgh said the Rotary Club is proud to support the Winter Park High School and Killarney Elementary School food pantries through the holiday event. It’s a need in the community that isn’t always on the forefront of people’s minds, he said. It takes about $10,000 to fund each food pantry for a year, so $20,000 would be the ultimate fundraising goal, Blydenburgh said.
“We’re looking to really appeal to the Winter Park community for their generosity at Christmastime to give to this really important cause,” he said. “(Although) we don’t make a big deal about it, there are a large number of homeless kids at Winter Park High School — there are (more than) 60 families. People don’t know that, and I think most people think that Winter Park is really affluent and doesn’t have problems. There are kids that go to school hungry — same thing with Killarney. This money will go directly to Second Harvest to buy food to put on the shelves of the food pantries.”
The event is free, but the club is asking for donations to help support the Winter Park High School food pantry and the Killarney Elementary food pantry. In past years, the event has only relied on business sponsors, but this year, the event is leaning on the generosity of residents.
“It’s meant to be a voluntary fundraiser for community charity — you don’t have to pay to get in, but if you’re so inclined you can donate,” Blydenburgh said. “That’s been with the event since the get-go — it’s always been an event where people can just come out and watch and have a good time.”