A political boat parade approaches the Annapolis Harbor. Photo: John Martino

SLIDESHOW: Hundreds of Vessels Join Bay “Trumptilla” Boat Parades

Over Labor Day weekend, hundreds of boats paraded around Chesapeake waterways to demonstrate support for Republican political candidates, including President Donald Trump, ahead of Election Day.

These “Trumptilla” boat parades were held on the lower Eastern Shore Saturday and the Potomac River in Washington, D.C. Sunday. On the Potomac, a public Facebook event urged boaters to join Sunday’s parade, posting, “Let’s ALL join together for the Nation’s Capital Trumptilla Boat Parade to make it a HUGE and BEST EVER boat parade. Let’s show our support of President Trump, the Constitution, Law Enforcement, Fire Fighters, Emergency Responders. Frontline Healthcare and Essential workers and let the voices of FREEDOM and LIBERTY to STRONGLY be heard in our Nation’s Capital!!!” as well as inviting people to watch from “land rally” locations along the shore.

In Annapolis, an invitation-only Facebook group organized a “Labor Day for the Boat Parade Flotilla for Republican Election/Trump Reelection.” An estimated 300 boaters assembled Monday near the Naval Academy bridge, then paraded to the entrance of “Ego Alley” at City Dock and exited the Annapolis Harbor on the Eastport side. Some 200 boats headed north to Round Bay for a raft-up, while others went home to the Magothy and South rivers.

See photos of the parades in the Chesapeake region by clicking through the photos below:

Participants tell Bay Bulletin they were instructed to “be respectful and safe,” and a VHF channel was established for communications during the parade. In a Facebook post, Republican candidate for the Maryland House of Delegates District 33, Stacie MacDonald, specified that the flotilla would be at “No-wake speed…single file with designated flagship lining up near the bridge to lead. Approximately 30′ distances between boats. Single file.”

POLITICO reported back in May that pro-Trump boat parades are a strong source of support for the President’s reelection campaign, and the campaign said its blue “TRUMP 2020” nautical flags were the biggest seller on its online store.

Longtime local followers of election years haven’t seen this trend before. Matthew Crenson, Professor Emeritus of the Johns Hopkins University Department of Political Science, says he’s never heard of boat parades for political campaigns until now.

Crenson tells Bay Bulletin, “They likely popped up because of the pandemic. Because they’re outside, they facilitate social distancing and are likely COVID friendly.”

Crenson says the on-water displays may be more a novelty than a persuasive tool. “It’s like putting up a lawn sign, only you’re putting it up on your boat.”  

In addition to the “Trumptillas” on the Chesapeake, a Labor Day weekend boat parade went from Jupiter, Florida to Mar-a-Largo and another was held in Newport Beach, California.

-Meg Walburn Viviano