Mike and Donna Nix deliver not only one beautiful boat of a float, but Santa Claus himself!
By Ned Steele
Skip the sleigh, Santa. This is Siesta Key; we’ve got a boat for you.
And Rudolph? You won’t need him to guide the way either. Because when you cap off the annual Light-Up the Village Holiday Parade this Nov. 25, we’ve got Mike and Donna Nix for you.
This local couple will personally escort you, aboard their charter boat-turned-parade float, right into the Village to distribute toys – just as they have every parade since 2017.
Of course, it won’t be any ordinary boat-converted-into-landbound parade float. As in years past, Mike and Donna will transform it into a magical, snow-blowing conveyance so dazzlingly lit that Rudolph and his buddies will be jealous.
Mike and Donna are two heroes of the annual Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce parade, which ushers in the holiday season on Thanksgiving weekend.
“They are outstanding people,” said Ann Frescura, executive director of the chamber. “They do everything 100%.”
Doing it 100%, Nix style, starts on the day before Thanksgiving. That’s when they haul their 26-foot SouthWind SportDeck sightseeing boat, named “All is Swell,” out of the water and declare a holiday for their Turtle Beach-based business, Key Life Charters.
They’ll tow the vessel to their driveway and get on with the immediate business: preparing and enjoying their Thanksgiving feast.
But then comes Friday. “It’s Decorating Day,” said Mike, “That’s when the fun really starts.”
By mid-afternoon, about 15 friends and family will show up in the driveway to start stringing the lights, prepping the snow-blowing gun, and, well, just maybe, party a bit along the way.
By nightfall, they’ll have decked the All is Swell with a thousand feet of festive multicolor LED lights – enough to cover the float from bow to stern 25 times. There will be two wire mesh reindeer (some years it’s a pair of dolphins) atop the Ram 1500 pickup that hauls the rig. A row of blue fringe lights will line the vessel’s bottom from end to end, making it look like it’s riding the waves.
“We basically cover the whole boat in lights,” Mike said. It’s all enough for them to have won last year’s prize for best decorated and lighted float.
Early Saturday morning, they’ll line up the float at the staging ground, load Santa’s toys onto the bow, and position Santa up front. Two elves (Donna and the couple’s daughter) will hop on, and their future son-in-law will man the snow gun.
Hopefully all will go without a hitch – they’ve had a few of them in past years and worked them out by now.
“We’ve had to duck low-hanging trees to get to the starting point,” Mike said. “One year the battery went down and the boat went dark. We’ve switched from incandescent to LED bulbs to prevent that.”
Another year, an extension cord came undone briefly. Once, the snow gun overheated.
“We think we have it all covered now,” Mike said.
For Mike and Donna, the work is worth it all when they reach the Village and it’s time for Santa to give out toys:
“We love seeing the look on the kids’ faces. They are so excited to see Santa Claus,” Mike said.
That’s how it’s gone every year since their involvement began. The couple moved to Siesta Key from St. Simon’s Island, Georgia, after having vacationed on the Key many times. Each gave up their jobs – Mike was in insurance, Donna in real estate – and started Key Life Charters the same week. Soon they joined the chamber of commerce.
That’s where they met Frescura, who sized them up immediately as just the right pair to escort Santa into town.
“We were more than happy to do it,” Mike said. “It’s such a good slice of Americana that we wanted to be part of it.
“We were on board from the moment Ann asked us. We plan on doing it for a long as we can.”
Saturday, Nov. 25, 5 p.m., Siesta Village
Parade route: It will begin at Avenida Del Mare and Beach Road and travel north onto Ocean Boulevard and into Siesta Village.
Santa’s spot: He will arrive at Siesta Center parking lot, 5053 Ocean Blvd. Immediately after the parade, kids may take photos with Santa free of charge. Gift bags will be handed out to the first 250 kids.
To participate in the parade: Register at siestakeychamber.chambermaster.com/eventregistration/register/1733. Deadline is Nov. 17.