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Night & bay, at Newport’s Lighted Boat Parade

Published on November 28, 2017 11:39AM

By Barbara B. Covell

For the TODAY

Photos by Kerry Terrel

Newport’s historic Bayfront will be aglow this Saturday, Dec. 2, as vessels of all sizes take to Yaquina Bay for the annual Lighted Boat Parade.

Now in its 24th year, the parade transforms the Yaquina Bay into a watery winter wonderland with a host of vessels, twinkling lights and festivities for the entire family. Sponsored by Don and Fran Mathews of Marine Discovery Tours, this favorite event is the signature ‘holiday on water festival’ on the Oregon Coast.

“We started this in 1994 as a fun way to promote the Bayfront and raise community dollars for the Pacific Communities Hospital Foundation’s Festival of Trees,” Fran said. “It draws people from all over the Pacific Northwest and provides a boost to local merchants.”

An idea that began small has evolved into an armada of ships, private vessels, motorboats and sail boats — even sea kayaks get into the fun.

“The lighted displays vary also,” Fran said. “Some people go all out with a variety of themes, lighting techniques, fireworks and live music. We have even had Santa here on water skis. Maybe he’ll be back again this year.”

The Bayfront offers ample free parking spaces, nautical-themed displays, seating areas, shops, docks to view the sea lions and ample walkways to stroll and watch the magic. It is also the largest public viewing area along the parade route, creating an optimal location to gather and enjoy the festivities.

The parade begins at 5 pm, with boats departing from various docks along the Bayfront, as well as the South Beach marina. Hundreds of onlookers line the docks, walkways, scenic shops and restaurants watching the boats circle the bay from the Coast Guard Station to the Embarcadero and back. The US Coast Guard’s “Victory,” built in 1956 and the oldest Coast Guard vessel in active duty, will lead the parade in stately elegance. Other vessels participating include the Discovery, Newport Tradewinds, Baitball, Miss Raven, as well as launches from NOAA Pacific Fleet, whose research vessels return for the winter. Mathews says more than 15 vessels have registered for this 24th Lighted Boat Parade, with the lineup determined the night before in a drawing for placement.

One opportunity for onlookers to get in on the fun is to purchase tickets from the passenger licensed boats. The Marine Discovery Tours and Newport Tradewinds have space available. Passengers tickets are $30 for adults; $15 for youth and free for kids aged 3 and under. While onboard enjoying the cruise and the dazzling array of lights, passengers are treated to hot chocolate and cookies. The total capacity between both boats is approximately 75, so people are urged to purchase now by calling 541-265-6200 or visiting Marine Discovery Tours at Anchor Pier, 345 SW Bay Blvd., on Newport’s Bayfront before 3 pm on Saturday.

All entry fees and passenger ticket sales are donated directly to the Festival of Trees.

“This is a feel-good event for the boating community, as we contribute to our local hospital,” Fran said.

The Festival of Trees is a holiday event that raises funds to enhance health care services available at Samaritan Pacific Communities Hospital. Funds are raised through donations and an annual gala at the Health Education Center in Newport on Saturday, Dec. 9. This year funds will be used to enhance oncology services at the new hospital.

The annual Newport Lighted Boat Parade provides a boost to Bayfront merchants and restaurants. Dinner reservations before and after the parade’s dazzling light display are a popular choice with locals and visitors. Many offer pre-sold reservations to dine and view the colorful twinkling lights on the water. Be sure to dress warmly as the evening coastal air can bring chilly weather, rain or windy conditions.

For more information on the Lighted Boat Parade, pre-sold restaurant packages, lodging and accommodations, contact the Newport Chamber of Commerce at 541-265-8801 or go to http://newportchamber.org.

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