The Veteran’s Boat Parade was started way back in 1996 by a member of the Elks Lodge 1912 in Madeira Beach.
In 1998, veterans Don Graham and Leroy White, members of the American Legion Post 273, took the helm o the parade and were able to boost the participation to over 30 boats.
Following the tragic events of 9/11/2001 the parade experienced its largest flotilla of over 90 boats. They all came out to honor the veterans of our military as well as to show their patriotism during those trying times.
In 2003 Capt. Warren “Shep” Shephard took over as Chairman of the parade and ran it until 2016. Shep was a frequent winner of the parade and was a fan favorite with his decorations and patriotic music.
Board members Barbara Strayer and Mike Griesemer joined Shep in 2004 to help with the continued growth of the yearly tradition.
For 2017, Shep and Barb retired from their many years of managing the parade and turned over the reins to long-time board member volunteers Rodger Gerstung and Pam Rasmussen who serve as the current co-chairs.
2006 – the parade was graced with the flyover of F-16 fighter jets from the 482nd Fighter Wing out of Homestead AFB
2008 – the tradition of honoring one branch of the military each year. The first honoree was the COAST GUARD, who provided the flyover that year with a C-130 cargo plane that is used extensively in Search and Rescue missions as well as the MH-60 Jayhawk Helicopter.
2009 – the parade organizers were made aware of an 87-year-old Army Veteran that lived along the parade route and truly enjoyed the event each year. In his honor, the ARMY was selected as the branch to be honored that year. Capt. Shep (also an Army vet) arranged for the Army to provide a flyover from a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter as well as entering a 74′ LCM8 Landing Craft boat into the parade.
2010 – the US NAVY was selected in honor of Photographer Mike Griesemer (himself a Navy veteran) and Barb Strayer (whose father was a Navy veteran). The NOSC Tampa vessel participated carrying many active duty officers, enlisted personnel as well as reservists and vets.
2011 – the MARINES were honored. In support of their annual “Toys for Tots” Christmas Charity drive, parade supporters donated a large collection of toys.
2012 – The popular F-16 flyover was once again provided by the 482nd Fighter Wing from Homestead AFB as the U.S. AIR FORCE was chosen as that year’s honoree.
2014 – The US ARMY was once again chosen as the year’s honored branch. Many of the entrants produced Army tanks to display on their vessels.
2015 – Madeira Beach opened its new R.O.C. Park by City Hall and the canal to it was added to the parade route.
2016 – As a special tribute, the parade organizers decided to honor ALL BRANCHES of the U.S. Military.