Lighted boats to hit the water Dec. 12-13

By Dori O'Neal, Herald staff writer December 4, 2008 

The annual Christmas Lighted Boat Parade has jazzed up the waters of the Columbia River for more than three decades.

And on Dec. 12-13, about 15 boats will hit the water, once again decked out in a bedazzling array of multicolored lights.

The parade starts at 6 p.m. each night with businesses along the parade route from Kennewick to Richland offering up a warm spot to watch the brightly lit boats pass by.

Or you can just park your car along the banks of the river in Columbia Park for a ringside seat. But to add even more spice to your viewing of the parade, you can always watch it from the air.

Bergstrom Aircraft in Pasco is offering plane rides over the Columbia during the lighted boat parade. Cost is $99 for up to three people per flight. To make reservations, call 547-6271.

"We've always offered scenic flights in the area, but this is the first time we've included flights during the lighted boat parade," said Malin Bergstrom with Bergstrom Aircraft. "We're hoping to offer rides during the annual luminaria as well. All the flights are weather permitting, of course."

The boat parade sets sail from Clover Island about 6 p.m., cruises upriver to Howard Amon Park in Richland at about 6 to 7 mph, then turns around and returns to Clover Island. It's about a three-hour tour.

Rod Mineke of Pasco will have his 33-foot Sea Ray decorated in a "Christmas in Central Park" theme, complete with a lighted horse and carriage.

"This parade is always exciting for us," Mineke said. "The (Tri-City) Yacht Club started the parade back in the late '70s. It's mainly been one of our civic contributions to the Tri-Cities. We have a lot of fun doing it every year, no matter how cold it gets."

But you don't have to be a member of the yacht club to join the ranks of the parade, he added.

"Doesn't matter what size boat you have. We welcome all boaters to join us," Mineke said.

For more information, call Mineke at 539-0639.

Mineke remembers the early days when boaters endured some pretty frigid temperatures during the holiday parade.

"What really made more people start taking part in the parade, which increased its popularity, I think, was when portable generators became available that were lightweight and could handle all the lights as well as heaters on board," he said. "There have been some pretty cold Decembers when we've had this parade."

Of the 14 boats scheduled to float in this year's parade, they range in size from 16-foot runabouts to 40-foot yachts, each with a different holiday theme.

Adding to the festivities starting at 6 p.m. will be cocoa, caroling and a visit from Santa in Howard Amon Park. Then a fireworks display set to music starts at 6:30 p.m. The fireworks celebrate the city's 50th anniversary.

*Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; doneal@tricityherald.com

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