OCEANSIDE — Dozens of brightly decorated boats will motor around Oceanside Harbor in the annual Parade of Lights Dec. 14.
Joseph Helgren, of Helgren’s Sportsfishing, said it takes a day to get the 75-foot Electra powerboat ready for the parade. It’s all hands on deck as family and friends pitch in to put in place 1,000 feet of strung lights and a giant inflatable Santa Claus and snowman.
“The day before we buy new lights if need be and reuse lights that are in working shape,” Helgren said. “It’s a tradition every year.”
Helgren said he remembers his family participating in the parade for more than 20 years.
Each year Helgren’s Sportsfishing takes about 60 passengers on board to have a bird’s eye view of the boat parade.
“On the water you can see all the lights and all the people waving and cheering you on,” Helgren said.
One winning boat decoration the family entered was an inflatable Santa Claus casting his fishing pole off the front of the boat.
“We’ve placed a couple of times,” Helgren said.
Other boats are decorated with inflatable Christmas characters and lights strung in the shape of holiday words, stars and Christmas trees.
Boaters compete for the best decorated powerboat, sailboat, best of event, and most creative awards.
A dockside light contest is included for boaters who want to participate without taking their boats out.
The Oceanside Yacht Club has coordinated the annual boat parade for more than 10 years. However, the tradition spontaneously began years before that when the harbor opened in the 1960s.
“For years people would throw lights on their boats and cruise around the harbor,” Jim Jenkins, Oceanside Yacht Club member, said.
Now boat owners register to participate at no fee and are given a parade lineup order. This allows spacing for larger boats to maneuver the tight turns of the marina.
The local event still has a grassroots feel with decorated kayaks and motorized rafts spontaneously joining in after the parade begins.
Harbor shops also participate by donating prizes for boat parade winners and having extra staff on hand to serve the crowd of more than 2,000 spectators.
The parade is an opportunity for community bonding. Its repeated theme is holiday cheer.
“It is the Corinthian spirit,” Jenkins said. “The true Corinthian spirit is opening up and giving back.”
“The most rewarding part is hearing kids sitting on rocks cheering,” Jenkins added. “It’s a expression of the season in a whole different manner.”
The Parade of Lights takes place from 7 to 9 p.m.