Almost 1,000 boats are set to parade up Lake Lanier from Buford Dam to Port Royale Marina on Sunday.
Dustin Melton, Cornelia resident and coordinator of the Great American Boat Parade, said the parade has a conservative theme but all are welcome. The signup page encourages participants to "make it great” for President Trump and "celebrate freedom and patriotism.”
“We’re really not trying to divide the Republicans and Democratic Party, we’re mainly having a great American boat parade,” he told The Times. “There will be Trump flags flying, that’s a guarantee, but there will also be military, American flags and flags that support the police.”
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources intends to have around 12 to 14 game wardens in patrol boats on the lake, according to Mark McKinnon, public affairs officer of the agency's law enforcement division.
Great American Boat Parade
What: Hundreds of boats cruising on Lake Lanier
When: 11:15 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 6
To participate in parade: gabplanier.app.rsvpify.com
Hall County viewing locations:
- Old Federal Day Use Park, 6175 Jim Crow Road, Flowery Branch
Forsyth viewing locations:
Editors Note: Shady Grove Campground has been listed in some literature as a viewing location. This is a day use campground that is open only to those who are camping there, so that campground will not be open for public viewing of the parade.
Port Royale Marina, 8800 Port Royale Drive, Gainesville
McKinnon said DNR officers will be enforcing all boating laws including those regarding life jackets, and boating under the influence, as well as requiring social distancing.
“Our game wardens have already worked boat parades at Allatoona, Clarks Hill and Blackshear this year, and the boaters have done very well obeying the laws and being courteous and respectful,” McKinnon said. “We expect the same experience this weekend.”
The boats will begin moving at 11:15 a.m. and end around 2 p.m. at Port Royale near Browns Bridge Road in Forsyth County. When reached by The Times on Wednesday, Port Royale was unaware of the event.
Melton obtained a permit for the event with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Ernest Noe, chief ranger over shoreline management at Lake Lanier, confirmed that but was unavailable for additional comment Wednesday.
After securing that permit, Melton said he began reaching out to boat owners around Northeast Georgia. So far, 900 people have signed up to participate, he said.
“We’ve had an enormous response from a bunch of great people,” Melton said.
Melton suggested a few viewing locations in Hall County, including Aqualand Marina, Old Federal Day Use Park and Sunrise Cove Marina.
Patrick Kenney, general manager of Aqualand Marina in Flowery Branch, said he is aware of the parade but advises spectators against viewing it from their fuel dock.
“We have very limited parking here, and we’ve got a full-blown restaurant that will be busy,” Kenney said.
Management from Sunrise Cove Marina in Gainesville explained in a statement that the marina's parking lot cannot handle dozens of cars.
“We’re a small marina, and we only have enough room for customers to come here,” the statement read.
Melton said he felt compelled to organize the event with the help of his friends, John Gunter and Brett Downing, after seeing other boat parades around the U.S. He said the upcoming display aims to “help people get through these hard times" and “give them enthusiasm and hope” for the nation’s future.
The event will include live patriotic songs amplified over a public address system as well as a helicopter flying over. Melton said he will be awarding a prize to the best decorated boat.
Melton said most participants will be charged $10, and proceeds from the event will go toward the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, which Melton said helps provide mortgage-free smart homes to injured veterans.
“Our vision is bringing the community together, whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat,” he said. “It’s just a parade of a bunch of people coming out and celebrating freedom.”
Boat owners can reserve a spot in the parade by visiting gabplanier.app.rsvpify.com. Melton said after signing up, people will receive a confirmation email with the details of where they’ll be stationed and when to arrive.
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