Boats parade around Brandy Pond and Long Lake at the inaugural Christmas in July Boat Parade last year. This year’s parade will be held July 24. Contributed / Ed Mercer

The Naples Marine Safety Patrol team last summer planned and pulled off a Christmas in July Boat Parade in three weeks. This year, with more prep time and the help of local businesses, organizers hope the parade’s second go-round will not only be bigger and better, they hope it will become an annual event.

“Last year was just kind of put your toes in the water, we only had a couple of weeks to get it going, yet it was very successful, especially for a first year out,” said Marine Safety Patrol member Jim Stark. “This year I think we’re going to be much better, we’re much more organized and really ready for it. The townspeople and the businesses have been eager to support.”

A decorated boat and Santa boaters from Naples’ Christmas in July Boat Parade last year. Contributed / Robin Mullins

The Safety Patrol has partnered with the town of Naples and the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce for the July 24 parade. The parade will start at 8:30 p.m. at Brandy Pond, where boaters will embark on a 90-minute to two-hour route around the pond and Long Lake.

The initial intent of the parade was to support local businesses and get people outside after a winter of pandemic isolation, Starks said. Over 60 boats took park and people lined the lakeshore and the Causeway to watch.

“We decided we needed to do something to bring people out,”  said Marine Safety Patrol member Mark Maroon. “The town was slow, COVID was in its peak, the fireworks had been canceled, the Blues Festival had been canceled. The businesses needed something, the town needed something, people needed something … so we figured this was a very safe way of doing that.”

This year, the event has a number of sponsors, including local restaurants, shops and other businesses.

“The reason that we really wanted the sponsors is that one thing we discovered last year was, obviously you want to do this at night, but anybody who has been a boater on the lake realizes how dark it really can get out there,” said Robin Mullins, executive director of the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce. “So we have been able to purchase lights with the money from the sponsorships. It will help people to stay on course and not get too close to the shore or any rocks.”

Parade organizers purchased 13 commercial grade marine lights and 10 more were donated.

“With those we’ll be able to mark the route, and so you’ll be able to see from from one buoy to the next,” Stark said. “It’s going to make it much easier this year for people to make it around the lake and not have to worry about being in the wrong spot.”

Safety is a top priority for the event, and most of the funding will be used to ensure a smooth and safe parade.

“The goal is to keep it extremely safe. We need to invest in the project,” Maroon said.

Some of the remaining funds will be used to award prizes to the best decorated boats and businesses. Naples selectmen will judge the boat decorations and award gift cards to local businesses to the winners.

Going forward, Stark, Maroon and Mullins all hope the event will become an annual Naples tradition. The group hopes to also include people from surrounding towns as well as tourists or camp owners.

“We don’t want this just to be a Naples event, we want it to be a regional event where we draw people in from all over the place and kind of make everybody feel involved in some way, whether they’re a participant in the parade or if they’re decorating the house or if they’re just here watching from the Causeway or from wherever,” Stark said. “We just wanted everybody to feel like they’re part of it.”

You can register a boat at sebagolakeschamber.com.

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