Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Yorktown Foundation Disqualifies Boat from Parade for Overt Political Message

The Yorktown Foundation has issued a statement regarding a controversial entry in the 2021 Lighted Boat Parade (Courtesy of a WYDaily Reader)
WARNING: This story alludes to explicit language. Reader discretion is advised. -Ed.

YORKTOWN — In the wake of a controversial entry into this year’s Yorktown Lighted Boat Parade, the Yorktown Foundation issued a statement regarding the polarizing messaging of one entry.

The annual Yorktown Lighted Boat Parade, which took place at the Yorktown Riverfront on Saturday, Dec. 5, 2021, included several entries. Many expressed concern after an entry, which had a lighted sign stating, “FJB” and “Let’s Go Brandon!” on it, was not only allowed to participate in the family-friendly event, but was initially declared the “Best in Show” at the parade’s conclusion. “FBJ” stands for, “F— Joe Biden” and the phrase, “Let’s Go Brandon!,” has been adopted by those who do not support President Joe Biden.

Dr. Walt Akers, a member of the Board of Directors for the Yorktown Foundation, the parent, all-volunteer organization that oversees many of the celebratory committees in York County, including for the Lighted Boat Parade, reached out to WYDaily to express an apology on behalf of the committee and release the following statement:

“The Yorktown Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation whose mission is to promote community activities in and around Yorktown, Virginia. To achieve that mission, we serve as an administrative umbrella organization for smaller groups and committees that focus on specific events. These include the annual Virginia Symphony performance in Yorktown, the Celebrate Yorktown Committee, the Tall Ships Committee, Art on the Riverwalk, the Yorktown Lighted Boat Parade and many other small projects. As a 501(c)(3) organization, the Yorktown Foundation and its sub-ordinate groups are apolitical. 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.”

Dr. Akers also said that the committee remains “pretty hands off” when it comes to monitoring the activities of these subcommittees but pays particular attention to if insurance and taxes are paid on time. However, upon further reflection, he said that more energy should be expended upon making sure that everyone who participates in the Foundation’s programs and events understands that it is an apolitical organization.

He said, “In retrospect, we should have expected that the current political divisiveness would have spilled over into other activities. I want to humbly apologize for that shortsightedness, and assure you that we will be much more diligent in the future.”

Dr. Akers expressed that the volunteers of the Foundation “feel terrible” about what happened and that they will work together to ensure there is not a reoccurrence.

Earlier today, WYDaily reached out to Visit Yorktown who put this newsroom in touch with Yorktown’s Dock Master Capt. James Scruggs. He told WYDaily that the parade’s committee was reconvening to reevaluate how the points were awarded and to look for any discrepancies that may have occurred. However, he did not elaborate further.

The Yorktown Lighted Boat Parade stated that the winners would be announced soon along with a video of the parade itself.

WYDaily reached out to several individuals who participated in the parade including York County Board of Supervisors Chairman Chad Green and York-Poquoson Sheriff J.D. “Danny” Diggs, of whom both of these elected local government officials served as judges for the parade, and Capt. Bill Berger, owner and operator of the boat in which was initially declared “Best in Show.” None of these individuals responded to numerous requests for comment.

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