Parade of Lights Ideas


A Parade of Lights has become a staple of many waterfront communities' holiday seasons. The Parade commonly features a lighted boat procession through a local harbor or river, although land-based Parades of Lights also exist. Boats of all sizes are generally welcome in harbor Parades. Boat owners, yacht clubs and community organizations create colorful light displays often powered by onboard generators. More sophisticated displays are computer controlled, and feature character animation or constantly changing scenery.

Themed Boat Displays

  • Consider a themed Parade of Lights in communities with many recreational or commercial boats. Themes include holiday movie characters, traditional holiday scenes or sea creatures dressed for the holidays. Boat crews often enhance the lighted displays by dressing as characters reflecting the boat's theme. Onboard sound systems pipe holiday music as the boats slowly proceed around the parade route. Shipboard refreshments put the parade boats' crews in a festive holiday spirit.

Marine Business Competition

  • An active maritime business community may seize the opportunity for a friendly Parade of Lights marine business competition. Ask staff from marinas, boat maintenance firms and rigging companies to band together, with each group creating a parade entry aboard a staffer's boat. Waterfront-area restaurants and cafes represent other parade entry prospects. Offer winners' trophies, a pre-parade buffet lunch for participating crews and free publicity that helps support the city's maritime district.

Parade of Lights Benefit

  • Parade of Lights events provide opportunities for parade entrants, and the viewing public, to support a local charity. In Venice, Florida, for example, a registered non-profit group organizes the boat parade. The group solicits sponsors to underwrite expenses, with proceeds dedicated to youth-oriented boating activities. Sponsorship potentially offers tax benefits, if applicable. Even without these benefits, Parade of Lights organizers can support a community-based charity through event registration fees. Parade viewers can vote for favorite entries with small voluntary donations.

Business Sponsorships

  • Use the Parade of Lights to promote sponsoring businesses and create a cohesive city business community. In Marina del Rey, California, for example, businesses sponsor Parade of Lights banners that appear on city streets for eight weeks prior to the boat parade. Banners publicize the Parade of Lights event, and prominently display the sponsor's name, as well. This sponsorship connection showcases each business's civic pride to residents and visitors alike.

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