Pack up the kids, grab some hot chocolate and roasted chestnuts and head for the water because it's time for the annual Christmas Lighted Boat Parade on Dec. 9-10.
There also will be some harmonizing caroling going on the Richland Community Center before the boats arrive up river when the Columbia River Chordsmen and Sweet Adelines barbershop singing groups perform. The music starts at 6 p.m. Admission is free.
There will be close to 30 boats, from yachts to dinghies, taking part in the parade, each decked out in all sorts of twinkly lights. They will leave from Clover Island in Kennewick at 6 p.m. each night.
In the past, boat decorations have included Santa popping out of a gift box, a snazzy little toy boat, a Columbia River dragon, and snowmen tossing gifts overboard. Other boats are draped with hundreds of lights, which cast magical reflections on the water. Some boats are even animated.
It will take the brightly colored boats about 90 minutes to reach Howard Amon Park in Richland where they will turn around, then return to Clover Island.
"Participating boats range in size from small fishing boats to luxury cruisers of more than 50 feet in length," said event chairman Larry Kuga.
"We love to see cars flash their lights on and off in appreciation, or kids waving flashlights from the bank," Kuga said. "We usually give them a honk back to let them know we see them."
Prime areas to view the parade are anywhere along Columbia Park as well as Columbia Point and Howard Amon Park in Richland, Kuga said.
Boaters are a tough breed and don't let much stand in their way, including braving rain and snow to bring the glittery water show to life. However, the one thing that will keep the boats from venturing out onto the open water would be high winds, Kuga said.
"Only a couple of times has the wind been strong enough to cancel the event," he said. "No matter how cold it can get on the boat, it doesn't spoil the appreciation we have for the families who brave the same weather on the shore to come watch."
Richland will allow small, recreational warming fires in certain areas of Columbia Park during the Lighted Boat Parade.
Fires are allowed on gravel beach areas only, and not on any grass or hard surface areas. These restrictions also apply:
-- An adult must be present at all times.
-- The fire must be at least 25 feet from combustible materials.
-- The fire must be 3 feet or less in diameter and no higher than 2 feet.
-- All fuel must be natural vegetation, such as firewood. Unburned material must be removed after the parade. No paper, trash or scrap lumber may be burned.
-- Celebrants must have a means to extinguish the fire, such as a fire extinguisher or bucket of water. The fire must be completely extinguished by the end of the parade.
-- No fires will be permitted in the event of high wind conditions that could spread the fire.
For more information about the parade or possible participation, call Kuga at 509-734-9599.
*Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; email@example.com