Steve DiPerna works on decorating his entry for the annual Whitey’s Board Parade.

Lighted Boat Parade Entrants Decorating Early

Clay Today

Dec. 17, 2009

By Christina Leach Phillips


ORANGE PARKIn early November, Steve DiPerna started decorating his 19-foot motor boat, “Escape,” with colorful lights, large candy canes, and Christmas trees. 

He worked in his garage for three weeks adding a wooden sleigh, several lighted reindeer held up by a black painted board, and a North Pole sign made from PVC pipe with red and white rope lights. 

DiPerna will enter his decorated boat in the Swimming Pen Creek Lighted Boat Parade at Whitey’s Fish Camp on Saturday, Dec. 19, like he has done every year since 2005. 

Last year, he won first place for his scene of Santa Claus on a sleigh with reindeer lifting up into the air.  Large speakers on his boat blared holiday music by Lynyrd Skynyrd like “Run Run Rudolph” and “Santa Clause is Coming to Town.” 

DiPerna said this year he added more decorations, and instead of an inflatable Santa, he will don a Santa costume and stand in the sleigh waving and dancing to the music. His friend, Bill Fouraker, will be the captain. 

Although DiPerna said he doesn’t know how many lights he has on his boat, he said he uses a 2,000 watt generator to illuminate it and a 500 watt inverter for the speakers. 

“What I enjoy most about being in the parade is meeting a lot of really nice people and bringing smiles to the children’s faces. What child doesn’t like Santa Clause? I would be lying if I said the competition didn’t have a part in it. There are many clever people involved in the parade and come up with some really neat ideas,” said DiPerna. 

The boat parade at Whitey’s Fish Camp, which is in its seventh year, has become a festive holiday tradition in Clay County with colorfully decorated boats that parade along Black Creek and DoctorsLake drawing large crowds. 

“There were approximately 1,000 people here last year lining the bridge, all the docks and shoreline,” said Vickie Daugherty, Parade Coordinator at Whitey’s Fish Camp.  

“We have people of all ages. They line the creeks here, and they line the shores ofDoctorsLakejust to watch the boats go by – whether they are big boats or little boats – they cheer for them all.  It’s just a great time,” she said. 

“People on the creeks plan their Christmas parties at their houses on the day of the boat parade, so there are lots of people around to watch, which makes it nice for the boaters also because they like to see everybody out cheering for them.” 

The parade starts at 6:30 p.m.  Daugherty said that the smaller boats that can go under the bridge at Whitey’s go “up the creek,” parade around, and then meet up with the larger boats. “They make a couple of laps here, (at Whitey’s) and then they go out of the creek toward the Lakeshore boat ramp.  They cut straight across the lake towards the Boy Scout Camp on the north side of the lake, and then they go back up and around across to Whitey’s,” she said.  

There are 18 boats registered so far this year compared with 27 in 2008, said Daugherty. “Last year was a record because of the weather.  There were more people who wanted to get out and decorate their boats,” she said. 

“We are not charging for boat registrations with the economy the way it is this year.  We want people to be able to afford to go out and decorate their boat and put it in the parade, and come and have fun.” 

The parade is not only a community event, but it is also a charity benefit. Donations from corporate sponsors, money from a silent auction, and proceeds from a raffle for a 50-inch Panasonic Plasma TV and Wii System will go to two local charities. 

“Last year, we raised about $10,000 that we split between the American Cancer Society and Safe Animal Shelter,” Daugherty said.  This year, she said they will again give money to these two agencies. 

Whitey’s Fish Camp, which has been in business for 46 years, started the annual parade in 2003. 

“We just wanted to do something special for the community,” said Daugherty.  “They have all been such loyal customers all these years, and in a way, we just wanted to draw everybody together to have a good time and do something for the kids to come out and enjoy the boats and lights – more of a family thing,” she said.  

Because parking is limited at Whitey’s, they will provide a free bus shuttle starting at 4:30 p.m. from Swimming Pen Creek Elementary School. 

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