Events coincide with annual Boom by the Bay Celebration

TAMPA, Fla. – For the first time, this year’s July 4th festivities in Downtown Tampa will include a boat parade and blessing of the fleet, hosted by the non-profit organization, Friends of the Riverwalk. The event is being held in conjunction with the City of Tampa’s Boom by the Bay celebration.

Building on the success of Friends of the Riverwalk’s annual Holiday Lighted Boat Parade, which is one of the largest in Florida, the inaugural July 4th Boat Parade will feature imaginatively decorated vessels and follow a similar route around Harbour Island and the east end of Davis Island and ending at Sparkman Wharf, where guest judges will evaluate each boat.  

“Tampa has a long tradition of boat parades,” said MaryBeth Williams, executive director of Friends of the Riverwalk, the non-profit organization which oversees the activation of the Riverwalk and organizes events. “Last year’s July 4th activities were canceled in Tampa due to the pandemic along with our signature event, Riverfest. We’re delighted to be a part of this year’s Boom by the Bay event and we hope everyone will come out and celebrate together safely as a community.”

Small craft and motorboats will begin the parade at the Convention Center basin beginning at 5 p.m., while larger vessels and sailboats will start the route from the same location at 6 p.m. Boaters will sail along the Hillsborough River route for approximately 7.5 miles with spectators cheering them along at several public viewing areas.

Along the route, there will be two separate Blessing of the Fleet stations at Sparkman Wharf and Water Works Park. This centuries-old tradition draws its heritage from Mediterranean fishing communities and is celebrated around the globe. Local clergy will bless the vessels to help ensure a safe and bountiful season.

Decorated vessels will have the chance to compete for first, second and third place trophies in two separate categories including Motorboat and Sailboat. Judges will also vote for the most patriotic vessel, with the winner taking home a Tampa-themed gift basket.

Public viewing will be available at the following locations and times*:
5:15 p.m. - Tampa Convention Center
5:30 p.m. - Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park
5:45 p.m. - Armature Works
6:15 p.m. - David Islands & Channel Drive
6:30 p.m. - American Victory Ship
6:45 p.m. - Sparkman Wharf

*All times are approximate

Public viewing will also be available all along the Tampa Riverwalk including Curtis Hixon Park, Water Works Parks, and Harbour Island. Visit to view the entire route.

Following the boat parade, spectators can stay to enjoy an exciting free fireworks display beginning at 9:15 p.m. at multiple locations around Downtown Tampa including:

  • Armature Works
  • Tampa Convention Center
  • Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park
  • Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park
  • Sparkman Wharf
  • Bayshore Boulevard (near Davis Island Bridge)

The registration fee to participate in the Boat Parade is $50 per boat. Captains who are interested must register their vessel online at

Friends of the Riverwalk is a privately funded, local non-profit that supports special events, family-oriented activities and beautification along the Tampa Riverwalk. Working in partnership with the city, its mission is to develop, activate and promote Tampa’s downtown waterfront.  This is achieved by supporting further expansion and development that increases community access to the waterfront, improves mobility and connectivity, and increases people-oriented uses and experiences along the Riverwalk, as well as creating an inviting outdoor destination showcasing downtown parks, museums, attractions, and businesses through outdoor public events and programming and building a stronger sense of community for everyone.  To learn more or to stay up-to-date with what is happening along the Riverwalk, visit or get social with them on Facebook, InstagramLinkedIn and Twitter. 

Media Contact:
MaryBeth Williams, Executive Director
(813) 221-1539/office
(727) 234-3858/cell