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The original item was published from 12/10/2019 9:14:00 AM to 12/12/2019 8:26:38 AM.

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Posted on: December 9, 2019

[ARCHIVED] Decades of Tradition: The Christmas Boat Parade

Sailboat decorated with Christmas lights and a man dressed as Santa Claus

By League City blogger Ashley Donde 

It all started 58 years ago...

...with five friends and a clever idea. On a whim, the men decided to decorate their boats with Christmas lights and parade them around Clear Lake. It was their personalized take on Christmas decorating, and a new way to celebrate the coming holiday season. Onlookers from lakefront homes and restaurants loved the gleaming spectacle on the water, and that evening became the very first Clear Lake Christmas Boat Lane Parade. What started as a casual get together with five friends has ballooned into an annual Clear Lake celebration between more than 100,000 friends from surrounding cities.

Red Adair—the famed local oil well firefighter who was portrayed by John Wayne in the film “Hellfighters,” which was loosely based on his life—was one of the five original Black and white photo of Red Adairboaters. He participated every year he could, and today the Best Overall Boat Award is named after this hometown hero who, 58 years ago, decided Clear Lake could use a little Christmas cheer.

This year, nearly 80 boaters have spent countless hours planning and decorating their vessels, upping the ante to hopefully come home with the coveted Red Adair award. Every year they outdo themselves, with bigger, brighter, more innovative designs.

I caught up with a few boat parade participants, and parade organizer Shari Sweeney—VP of the Clear Lake Area Chamber of Commerce—to learn a little more about this annual nautical celebration. The parade will be held on Saturday, Dec. 14th beginning at 6 p.m. 

Several boats decorated with Christmas lights in Galveston Bay

Shari Sweeney | Parade Organizer & VP of the Clear Lake Area Chamber of Commerce 

Q: How would you describe this event?

A: It’s part of the Clear Lake tradition to kick off the holiday season. Boats on the lake are decorated with lights, and some of the boaters get in costumes, some dance, some play music. The boaters can do amazing things with the lights, and the reflections off the water are spectacular.

Q: What have been some of the most memorable boats over the years? 

A: One year a boater created a Christmas tree out of lights, and a train that went around the tree. Another year we had a boat that was decorated to look like the space shuttle. But one of the most memorable was the Christmas after 9/11. We had a boater who made the New York skyline out of lights, with the World Trade Center and a fireman hanging from the building, all made with lights. It was incredible.

Q: Why should people come out to watch?

A: They should come out to see the uniqueness of the event, and the creativity of what people can do. It amazes me every year. Kicking off the holiday season is always a positive experience, and this is a tradition we’ve had for 58 years.

Sailboat decorated in Christmas lights

Gary and Kathy Wilson | 25-Year Boat Parade Participants

Q: What do you like about the Boat Parade tradition?

A: For our family, it all started with my sister-in-law and older brother. They did it first, and I was competitive, so I decided to do it too. Then it was an all-out war. Every year we’ve had about 5 family members in it, competing against each other. We love the camaraderie of it, getting together with everyone, and trying to outdo them.

Q: What kind of boat do you have?

A: A 38-foot Bayliner.

Q: How many hours does it take to fully decorate the boat?

A: We make all our stuff by hand, and we start months before the parade.

Q: Why should people come out to watch?

A: The boats are beautiful. The lights and all the elaborate stuff that goes on—you’ll never see them like that on the water any other time. The creativity is just unbelievable.

Boat decorated with elaborate Christmas lights and lighted dolphins on the front

Carl and Becky Fellows | First-Time Boat Parade Participants

Q: Why did you decide to join the parade this year?

A: We’ve been going since 2011, and my wife and daughter love it. We just bought a boat this past year and decided to enter the parade.

Q: What kind of boat do you have?

A: A Sportsman 232, 23 feet.

Q: Why should people come out to watch?

A: It’s a sight to see for sure. It’s nice to sit and drink a cup of hot chocolate and watch the boats go by. Good family fun.

Things to Know About This Year’s Parade

New Route
New this year is an additional route down the Davis Road/Constellation Pointe Canal, providing even more parade viewing options for League City residents. Homeowners along Davis Road are encouraged to decorate the waterside to welcome boaters along the parade route.

The parade kicks off at 6 p.m. with fireworks launched by the City of Nassau Bay, so keep your eyes on the skies to signal the beginning of the parade. The parade is approximately 3 hours long.

Where to Watch
There are several places to view the parade. Pull into the South Shore Harbour Marina and watch from there, or head to the other side of Clear Lake and watch from the Nassau Bay Lagoon. There is also viewing along Kemah Boardwalk, and from Clear Lake Shores.

More Parade Details

League City Mayor Pat Hallisey will be selecting the best League City boat entered into the parade and will present the winner with the League City Mayor’s trophy at an awards brunch at South Shore Harbour Resort on Sunday, December 15. The cost to register a boat is $90 up until December 13 and $125 on the day of the event. To access the parade entry form click here.

To view the 2019 parade route click here.

For more information about the parade visit

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