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How a pirate ship sailed into Christmas on Green Street parade
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The Ledford family works on their float, "The Old Salty Dog" in Gainesville, on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017. The Ledfords are preparing the float for Christmas on Green Street. - photo by David Barnes

A pirate ship 13 feet tall will sail down Green Street along with other Christmas-themed floats, vehicles and walkers.

The annual Christmas on Green Street event in Gainesville will begin with a parade at 4:30 p.m. Dec. 3 that will again feature “The Old Salty Dog,” which won first place in last year’s parade.

Christmas on Green Street

What: Parade, open houses at businesses, live music

When: 4:30 p.m. Dec. 3

Where: Green Street, Gainesville

How much: Free

Wade Ledford, 37, of Gainesville built the float in April 2016 for the Spring Chicken Festival. By December, he was adding decorations for a theme he called “The Pirates Who Stole Christmas.”

“I thought that his float took the theme to a creative level,” parade organizer Fox Gradin said. “It was just simply impressive.”

Ledford’s pirate ship project was first started to promote his spring cook-off team and their jerk chicken.

“Pirates used to come into the New Orleans area,” he said. “(And) they used to be in the Caribbean area with a lot of the food that we were serving at the cook-off.”

This month, it will be decked out again in Christmas lights.

“We put a little bag on the back full of toys, making it look like we had already snatched Santa Claus’s booty,” Ledford said.

The float was built using his brother’s old boat.

“The clunker had just been sitting around,” Ledford said. “He was in the process of about to (be) getting rid of it, and we hatched up this idea.”

Since its 2016 debut, the float has become quite popular, making appearances at Gainesville’s Beach Bash and even Adult Prom. 
But Ledford said the ship hasn’t taken much out of his pocket.

“Everything was supposed to be taking something old and making something new out of it,” he said of the Spring Chicken Festival parade. “So we didn’t go to the hardware store and buy brand-new material.”
He said there has been a good bit of construction and upkeep though, explaining it originally took about two weeks for him, his two brothers and all their children to convert the old boat into the pirate ship.

“You’re looking at probably about a good 40 hours put into the ship to do the initial construction,” he said.

He plans to rebuild it for 2018.

“We’re going to make a temporary float into a permanent float that we can use a little bit more,” he said. “People will be able to actually step onto the boat.”

Those interested in registering a float for the parade can contact Fox Gradin at

Other activities at the annual event include open houses at businesses that line Green Street. Musical groups will provide live music on the porches of some historic buildings. The Times will again have its photo booth, a place to write letters to Santa and viewing of a live press run.

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