Lake Lanier parade draws thousands of boaters, Trump supporters

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

A Lake Lanier boat parade drew thousands of boaters this weekend to celebrate America as well as show support for President Donald Trump.

Organizers of the Great American Boat Parade estimated between 3,000 and 3,100 boats participated in Sunday’s event. For three hours, boats of all sizes motored from a staging area near the Buford Dam, down the lake’s east bank, passing areas where spectators lined up to watch, and then back up the west side of the lake.

Dustin Melton, a Gainesville firefighter who lives in Cornelia, Georgia, said what started out as a small idea grew into a huge event.

“I think America right now is looking for hope with everything that’s going on right now in the world,” said Melton, who helped organize the parade. “I think Americans as a whole are trying to find something to grasp onto and celebrate and just to find relief.”

Game wardens from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) who were on duty during the event said it was one of the largest they’ve ever seen, said the agency’s spokesman Mark McKinnon.

The DNR estimated the number of boats at 3,000 to 4,000, including parade participants and spectators. One warden reported there were more boats on the lake than there would be for a Fourth of July that fell on a Saturday with good weather, McKinnon said.

He said no incidents or injuries were reported.

Melton said the parade featured everything from 100-foot houseboats to personal watercrafts, helicopters and a few airplanes that followed the parade path from above.

The idea for the event began as a way to show support for Trump, but Melton said organizers also wanted to bring people together.

Boat parades in support of Trump have taken place throughout the summer, including one last weekend at Lake Allatoona near Acworth. This weekend, several boats sank during a parade in Texas.

Melton said many of the spectators along Lake Lanier flew Trump flags and American flags.

“We wanted to show unity in America, and we wanted to show freedom,” he said.

Sunday’s event began with a moment of silence for Stan Elrod, a captain with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division who died last week after he was hit by a car while on duty.

The event also raised money for the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, which provides support to military members in honor of Siller, a firefighter who died in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.