On Saturday, Yorktown, Virginia held its 25th Annual Lighted Boat Parade, where a boat illuminated with “Let’s Go Brandon” and “FJB” Christmas lights was voted best in show. Two days later, the captain of the boat was informed he was stripped of the title because the Yorktown Foundation, a 501c3 nonprofit which supervises the groups running the parade, cannot be involved in political speech.
Bill Berger, whose boat, called “Southern Rock,” also sported fir trees and reindeer, noted “My boat was best in show to the crowd” and explained that the FJB lights stood for “Falling Joe Biden,” attesting, “We had the letters separated and meaning falling Joe Biden, and we had him falling down a ladder,” as WAVY News 10 reported.
He told the news station, “They had the awards ceremony, and they presented me winning the best in show and 48 hours later I got the phone call I was disqualified…They said my boat was too political.”
Walt Akers of the Yorktown Foundation blamed the Lighted Boat Committee, but admitted, “At some point as a foundation, we have not properly advised our lower groups on what the rules are as far as a nonprofit operation. … If we allowed politics to interfere with events, we would also lose our nonprofit status, and all these organizations below us would be dissolved.” He concluded, “I’ve made more apologies in the last 48 hours than for the rest of my life, I hope.”
Asked if the organizers should have known prior to the event what his theme was, Berger responded, “Yes. They should have…they should not have been surprised. They had plenty of time to disqualify me.”
On Tuesday, organizers of the Yorktown Lighted Boat Parade announced the winners: 1st place went to a boat themed “Peace on Earth”; 2nd place to Plains Emergency Response Boat, and 3rd Place to “Daddy’s Girl.”
The Yorktown Foundation gave a statement to WAVY News 10:
On December 4th, 2021, several members of the Foundation’s Board of Directors were made aware that a boat with an overt political message had participated in the Yorktown Lighted Boat Parade, and that the judges had awarded it first place. In discussions with the event organizers, they explained that they were equally perplexed that the boat had won and they took immediate corrective actions. The event organizers immediately notified the judges that the boat would be disqualified because its political statements were at odds with the mission of the Foundation, and the second-place boat would be advanced to the winning position. Further, the event organizers agreed to take steps in the coming year to review all entries in advance and ensure that they do not detract from the community spirit that this event is designed to foster.
The members of the Yorktown Foundation wish to reiterate that our mission continues to be to unify our community through events and activities that showcase everything that is wonderful about Yorktown, York County and our citizens. While we recognize that political divisiveness is a factor in our daily discourse, we DO NOT want it to negatively impact anyone’s enjoyment of our community events. We regret that this incident occurred, and we will work to avoid such events in the future.