Boat parades take center stage as socially distant Fourth of July celebrations

“It’s not fancy or too crazy, but it’s just a way to do something together as lake residents,” said the White Sand Lake Association president.

Boaters head out onto the water on White Sand Lake in Baxter as high temps and high humidity hit the Brainerd Lakes area Thursday, July 2. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

This Fourth of July, focus is shifting from street parades and big crowds watching fireworks to different celebrations that may not be new but are getting more of a spotlight.

Namely, boat parades.

On White Sand Lake in Baxter, a boat parade has been a staple of Independence Day weekend for roughly 20 years. Boats gather in the middle of the lake and parade around the water following the lake association president.

“It’s been a lot of fun over the years,” said Brian Wallace, White Sand Lake Association president, on Wednesday, July 1.

Participants and viewers gear up with water guns, hoses or whatever water-producing gadgets they can get their hands on to have some fun as the boats pass by docks.


“It’s basically a big water fight,” Wallace said. “And people do a really good job of decorating their boats with red, white and blue stuff, flags, and it’s just real fun to take a spin around the lake and just kind of their colors.”

Wallace estimates about 50-75 boats typically participate in the festive, community-building event each year.

“It’s not fancy or too crazy, but it’s just a way to do something together as lake residents,” he said. “As an association, you can only do so much, and there’s only a certain amount of people that will show up to meetings or whatever, but this way everybody can participate, and they don’t feel like they’re being roped into anything. It’s just a fun thing to do, and again, it’s really highly attended.”

With Fourth of July temperatures predicted to reach the high 80s, the water-focused event scheduled for noon will likely be a hit this year as well.

Other area lakes and resorts putting on boat parades this year include Cozy Bay Resort on Lake Edward, Crow Wing Lake, the Pelican Lake Yacht Club, with the Festival of Lights Parade scheduled for 9:30 p.m. Friday, July 3, on the north side of Lincoln Point in Pequot Lakes; and Lake Hubert, with the Independence Day Boat Parade set for 10 a.m. Saturday, July 4.

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at .
Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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