Coastal Texans carry on an ancient tradition with lighted boats
Lights on the water are part of Christmas on the Texas Gulf Coast.
For 56 years, the Clear Lake area has celebrated the season with decorated, lighted boats that glide in the Christmas Boat Lane Parade. More than 100 lighted and decorated power and sailboats will take part, with crews riding them through the Clear Lake channel from the South Shore Harbour Marina and the Nassau Bay Lagoon to Galveston Bay.
Clear Lake Shores, Kemah, League City, Nassau Bay and Seabrook all sponsor the parade, which this year is 6 p.m. Dec. 9. Bright, fantasy vessels will illuminate the water during the parade.
“Some are very elaborate and take a lot of engineering,” Lisa Johnson said. “They build platforms and attach smaller decorations.”
It’s Johnson’s third year serving on the parade committee. One year, a crew built a choo-choo train with puffing smoke, she said. Others will build a simple tree out of lights on the mast.
For Angela Craven-Folmar, the parade has become a Christmas tradition.
Craven-Folmar’s daughters got involved with the parade through their Girl Scout troop, and now Craven-Folmar participates each year.
“The girls are phenomenal,” she said.
They come up with a design on butcher paper, then use that as a pattern on black mesh. Next, they glue lights to the mesh.
“They learn how to run wiring and how different circuits work,” Craven-Folmar said. “They learn to change fuses, check bulbs and the art of electrical tape.”
The Girl Scouts have two boats in the parade each year.
“They always have the Girl Scout logo on the stern,” Craven-Folmar said.
The parade will include awarding-winning veterans such as Bryan Parmer. The first time he entered the Christmas Boat Lane Parade was in 1989, and he won an award.
Parmer has entered in different classes over the years, and he’s won many times. The parade has divisions for family boats and company-sponsored boats. It has categories for power boats and sailboats. Then, the different boat lengths are in different classes.
This year, Parmer is entering a 24-foot power boat in the family division. The crew will spend about two weeks decorating the boat.
“The problem with boats is your decorations have to tell the story,” Parmer said. “I’ve got 24 feet to tell a story. It’s got to make sense.”
More than 100,000 people watch the flotilla, the Clear Lake Chamber of Commerce said. Some watch from land, some watch from the hundreds of boats anchored in the lake.
Visitors can view the parade from South Shore Harbour Marina, Nassau Bay Lagoon, the Kemah Boardwalk, both sides of the Kemah-Seabrook Channel and Clear Lake Shores.
And if you want to decorate a boat and enter the parade next year, Johnson can help with that. She lives on a 40-foot catamaran that has not been in the parade.
“I always dreamed of someone decorating my boat,” she said.
Did you know?
• Illuminating boats that travel by night is an ancient Christmas tradition.
• Greek families often decorate small boats and display them in their homes. The tradition comes from welcoming sailors home from sea.
• In Louisiana, bonfires on the levees are a Christmas tradition that light the way for Père Noel.
• And Saint Nicolaus is also the patron saint of sailors.