KENNEWICK -- As the row of bright, colorful vessels bobbed toward the cable bridge, one little sailboat stood out from the crowd.
It wasn't the biggest craft in the Christmas Lighted Boat Parade on Friday evening, but it was the only one dressed in simple white.
A Star of Bethlehem crowned its mast. White lights ran down its rigging to a nativity scene silhouetted in little white stars.
"I wanted to get back to the reason for the season," said Dwayne Hughes, the boat's owner. "You can get fancier and bigger, but I wanted to keep it simple."
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The parade began at 6 p.m. under the cable bridge, ran up the Columbia River to Howard Amon Park and returned to Clover Island by about 9 p.m. It will take the same route tonight.
Friday night marked the first time Hughes and his wife, Jody, participated in the parade piloting their own boat. They bought "Time Bandit," a 26-foot sailboat, this past summer.
Dwayne Hughes grew up in Pasco, where the couple now lives. He's watched the parade just about every year.
"It's cool when it's snowing," he said. "It's always gorgeous to see the snow flakes falling around the boats."
Hughes allowed that snowflakes are more enjoyable when one isn't navigating through them on a large river in an open boat without heat.
"We're out in the elements here," he said, pointing to the exposed cockpit he and his wife would sit in during the parade.
The weather was mild and dry Friday, with temperatures still in the mid-30s during the parade. The forecast for today, however, calls for rain.
Boating runs in the Hughes family. Dwayne Hughes' father, Marion Hughes, was the commodore of the Clover Island Yacht Club in the early 1980s.
Friday night, he just watched as his son and daughter-in-law pushed off from the dock.
"I'm 81 years old," Marion Hughes said in a voice that betrayed no weakness. "They don't trust me around boats anymore."
This year's parade came days after the death of a veteran of the Tri-City boating community.
Dale Metz, who turned a pile of rocks into a marina just a few ship lengths away from where Hughes was docked, died Wednesday at age 94. A plaza in his name is to be dedicated Thursday on Clover Island.