Organizers are fine tuning details for the 31st annual Venice Christmas Boat Parade that sets sail at 6 p.m. Dec. 7.

That’s when Officer Paul Joyce of the Venice Police Department calls for the Albee Road bridge to open, signaling all boats assembled to turn on dazzling displays.

“That in itself is a sight to see” said Kristi Zgrzepski, secretary of the Venice Boat Parade organization, and wife of new president Joe Zgrzepski.

“All the boats line up in darkness on the water, and suddenly, all are illuminated, some are animated, and the sight takes on an almost magical quality. I’m getting goose bumps just thinking about it,” she said.

Joe Zgrzepski has embraced his role at the helm of the event.

Joe Zgrzepski said there are factors for their involvement. The thrill he feels as their own illuminated boat as it glides by enthralled crowds lining the parade route. Seeing the spectators along the waterway is energizing.

Kristi Zgrzepski added it’s gratifying because the underlying motive of the Venice boat parade is a charitable one. Each year the event raises money that go back into the community. It’s free to attend, but public generosity and sponsorships are key to awarding scholarships and donations to a number of Venice-area groups.

Donations provide for a yearly scholarship fund for select Venice High School seniors and an annual donation to the Venice Youth Boating organization.

In addition, several Venice-area charities are selected to benefit from remaining funds raised.

In the past, organizations like Wildlife Center of Venice, Venice Boy Scouts, All Faiths Food Bank and St. Francis Animal Shelter have all been recipients of funds raised.

Kristi Zgrzepski stresses “the more money we raise, the more the charities will benefit.”

A week after the boat parade, a celebratory banquet is held. At that time the recipient charities are announced. The captain and first mate from each participating boat attends the banquet and awards are given in a variety of categories.

The judges have remained a mystery every year.

One special award, the People’s Choice Boat award, is determined by spectators who watched the parade. The day after the event, the Venice Christmas Boat Parade Facebook page lights up with photos of each boat. That goes online Dec. 8.

To participate in the boat parade, all you need is a boat. Any size, make, model is eligible, and decorations can be as simple as a few strings of lights or as elaborate as you want to be.

Sign up online, or print and mail in the application found on the website. The entry fee is $20. Applications are accepted until Dec. 4.

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