Supporters of President Donald Trump are calling this weekend’s Charleston boat parade a success, saying their massive armada of pleasure craft of various shapes, makes and sizes could be seen from all points of the harbor.
An accurate count of the number of vessels involved could not be ascertained on the busy Memorial Day weekend but those who took part on the water and from land said there were hundreds of boats with thousands of people collectively on board, many decked out in red, white and blue flags and decorations.
Many boats carried the Trump 2020 re-election “Keep America Great” logo, which fed the purpose of the rally in getting the president’s message and supporters out.
“We’ve heard a thousand (boats), we heard 1,500, we’ve heard an actual count of 1,358,” said Randall Horres, of Johns Island, who was in the parade riding a 21-footer that carried eight people.
He said the event was a chance to show off U.S. pride.
“It was a great thing to have to show support for America and the commander-in chief, taking the politics out of it,” Horres said.
Charleston Sailing Charters posted on its Facebook site the fleet on the move extended for more than 5 miles.
The Charleston Police Department count of the number of boats involved Sunday was lower, estimating between 700 and 800 vessels, public information officer Charles Francis said Monday night.
Organizer Chad Walton declined an interview request Monday to give a post-parade assessment.
Advertising was mostly done on social media.
He had suggested all the boaters get to ramps early, have a designated driver and call local marinas to rent a slip.
“Best $100 or so you will spend,” he posted before the event.
The parade route advertised on Facebook showed the path starting near the Coast Guard station on the Ashley River, past The Battery to Waterfront Park, around the harbor then to the Wappoo Cut and into the Stono River.
The Charleston event joined other such parades being held on the Eastern seaboard so far this year, including in the president’s adopted home state of Florida.
Former Charleston County Republican Party Chairman John Steinberger watched the flotilla from the Battery.
“It was organized, it was grass roots,” he said, adding “people showed up to support the best president in my lifetime.”
Horres said one of the more uplifting moments was the prayer delivered by radio channel to all the participants.
The whole event was “very upbeat,” he added. “There was no negativity.”
Skip McQuillin and his wife, Debi, put their boat in the water at the Daniel Island Marina on Sunday afternoon not knowing what to expect.
Both voted for Trump in 2016, and both agreed that a MAGA boat parade was something they wanted to be a part of.
“When we saw the magnitude of it, we couldn’t believe it,” McQuillin said Monday.
McQuillin described seeing thousands of boats bobbing in the water, many adorned with large Trump flags that whipped behind them once they accelerated.
“I was a little nervous about it,” McQuillin said. “With so many boats in a small area and not knowing what to expect, but everybody seemed very polite, you know, very courteous. We didn’t see any problems at all.”
McQuillin said he was bracing for counter-protesters, either in the water or on land. But he said he never found anybody.
He said the parade really got going after the radio prayer, which was effectively a blessing for the fleet of supporters and the country.
When the prayer ended, that’s when the parade roared to life.
“Everybody started beeping their horns and began making their way toward the Battery,” he said.
Even on Monday morning, McQuillin said he and his wife were still talking about the parade. He called it “just a perfect day.”
Caitlin Byrd contributed to this report.
Reach Schuyler Kropf at 843-937-5551. Follow him on Twitter at @skropf47.