Hundreds of boats are set to parade up Lake Lanier from Buford Dam to Port Royale Marina and back 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. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Mobile District project office at Lake Lanier will have 17 rangers, along with volunteers, scheduled to work during the holiday weekend, Cesar Yabor, Mobile District chief of public affairs said.
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.”
To respond quickly in emergency situations, Yabor said the Corps works closely with local law enforcement, fire rescue, DNR officers and the Georgia Environmental Protection 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
Route: From Buford Dam to Port Royale Marina near Browns Bridge Road in Forsyth County
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:
Port Royale Marina, 8800 Port Royale Drive, Gainesville
Tidwell Park, Pilgrim Mill Road, Cumming
Shady Grove Campground, 1700 Allyn Lane Memorial Way, Cumming
Bethel Park, 8205 Bethel Road, Gainesville
Vanns Tavern Park, 9300 Vanns Tavern Road, Gainesville
The boats will begin moving at 11:15 a.m. up the east bank, take a turn at Port Royale and head down the west bank, ending around 2 p.m. back at the dam.
Melton obtained a permit for the event with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Yabor said the parade’s size is within the permit’s guidelines.
“It does not have stipulations on the maximum amount of people,” he said.
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 and Old Federal Day Use Park.
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.
When reached by The Times on Wednesday, Port Royale was unaware of the event.
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.