In the 37-year history of the Cape Coral Boat-a-long, there had never been one called on account of the weather. But if you looked out the window Sunday morning, you had the feeling this year might be the exception.
Thankfully, the rain stopped, the sun came out and thousands flocked Four Freedoms Park for an afternoon and cool evening of entertainment, fun and some of the brightest and most festive boats as they started their trek through the canals of Cape Coral.
Todd King, special events coordinator, said he was excited the weather broke for them.
A boat decked out for the 37th annual Boat Parade which kicked off at Four Freedoms Park on Sunday.
"On average we've had about 100 boats, based on the weather being cold, drizzly, but we've never had a rain out," King said. "Everybody's been waiting for the weather to break, so we'll be fine."
The entertainment included a program from the Calendar Girlz, the Oasis Singers from Oasis Charter Junior High School, the Ovation Show Choir from Oasis High School and the Kellyn Celtic Arts School of Irish Dance.
Cathy Dillard, a Calendar Girl, got to see her daughter, Abbey, sing and dance with the Ovation school choir, and both were pleased with each other's desire to entertain.
"This is awesome. I perform because my daughter performs," Dillard said. "I wish I was as good as my daughter, but I don't think they're too embarrassed."
Also on hand were city leaders wishing everyone a happy holiday; Santa, who called in updates of his trip down south, came from the North Pole to hear children's Christmas wishes; and there was a huge inflatable screen that showed Christmas favorites like "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer."
Robyn Heller took her son, 3, to visit Santa and have his picture with him before taking him to see the boats.
"We came for the singing and dancing, and it was neat to hear Santa when he was on the phone telling us he was on his way to Cape Coral," Heller said. "It's family oriented and everyone is having a good time."
Pattie Stoneburner, who came wearing a cowboy hat that lit up, moved here last year from Seattle just before the parade and loved it. She made sure to come this year as well.
"It's overwhelming. You have all the dancers and the boats and the big screen where they're watching the Christmas show. It's just a lot of fun," Stoneburner said. "If I was in Seattle, I'd have my jacket, umbrella, boots. Now, I have my capris and flip-flops."
But the real stars came out when the sun went down, as almost 100 boats came to Bimini Basin as it started its route down Cape Coral's canals to applause from those who crowded the beach area to wish them well on their voyage.
King said there are no awards given out, but even without the expertise, the public seems to know which ones stand out.
"Each nautical designer comes up with their own ideas, and Sea-Tow, which is our partner, they do a little judging on the water," King said. "It's easy to pick out the spectacular ones."
And there were many to choose from. Many had Santa and reindeer lit up, others had dancers and other delights. But whatever they had, those who came to watch had fun.
"I liked it. We just moved here in July, so it's our first year. I liked the one that looked like the Santa hat the best," said Michelle Hankinson. "It was nice, something for the kids to do."