The annual boat parade that takes place each winter in Yorktown, Virginia is mostly a local event. But last year, the event received national attention after one of the participants had a ‘Let’s Go Brandon’ sign that led to his boat being disqualified. Now, The Yorktown Foundation, the non-profit organization that oversees the boat parade, is updating its policy to avoid similar incidences in the future.
Last year, the boat parade took place on December 4, 2021 along the York River. There were a number of eager participants, but one boat stood out – it was decorated with colorful Christmas lights and had the signs ‘FJB’ and ‘Let’s Go Brandon.’ It is a viral catchphrase used in opposition to President Joe Biden. FJB is the more explicit form that was largely replaced by the phrase ‘Let’s Go Brandon.’
When the boat was brought in front of the panel of judges, it drew the loudest cheer of all from the crowd. Maybe it’s because of that – or maybe it was the decoration – but the judges gave it first place and awarded it ‘Best in Show.’ The victory was short-lived though. The boat was disqualified mere hours later after more people realized the messaging that was on it.
Captain Bill Berger, the owner of the boat, said that he’s puzzled by the unfolding of events, because he was clear about his ‘Let’s Go Brandon’ theme from the very beginning. When asked for comments about the signs critical of Joe Biden, he said, “We have a horrible president.” He continued, “Is it inappropriate? In today’s world, I don’t think so.” Captain Berger also said that he received threats online over the LGB sign, with some saying that they hope his boat sinks.
Dr. Walt Akers, who sits on the Board of Directors for The Yorktown Foundation, issued an apology for the incident. “We absolutely apologize for this. We had no idea this was going to happen, and we regret it. We’re going to take every action going forward to make sure that this sort of thing doesn’t happen again,” he said. Dr. Akers said that as a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation, no political speech of any sort is allowed in any of the events by The Yorktown Foundation.
The foundation updated its policy to ensure there are no similar confusions in the future. The updated policy bans all forms of political speech. It also forbids divisive rhetoric, stating, “The goal of the Yorktown Foundation is to unify our community by celebrating all of the great things about Yorktown.” Other things that are off-bounds include profanity, hate speech, hate symbols, and hate groups.