Wednesday, August 10, 2022
Aug. 10, 2022

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Christmas Ships poised to set sail on the Columbia River

Port of C-W will provide prime viewing of beloved annual holiday parade

By , Columbian staff writer
6 Photos
Contributed by Christmas Ships 
 Santa drives his reindeer along the Columbia River as part of the annual Christmas Ships parade, which returns this month. (Contributed by Christmas Ships)
Contributed by Christmas Ships Santa drives his reindeer along the Columbia River as part of the annual Christmas Ships parade, which returns this month. (Contributed by Christmas Ships) Photo Gallery

Why wouldn’t Portland’s Christmas Ships outings qualify as America’s best holiday parade?

The 67-year tradition of privately owned local boats getting all dolled up with lights and decorations, like floating tree ornaments, is once again rising up the ranks of USA Today’s Best Holiday Parade reader poll, which stays open to daily online voting through noon Monday at

If you haven’t experienced the waterborne parade for yourself, Saturday evening may be your best local opportunity. Starting at 6 p.m., the seasonally fancied-up flotilla will launch, loop and return to the Port of Camas-Washougal’s Marina Park, where viewing should be excellent. While the port won’t be hosting any indoor viewing this year, there’s always the floating Puffin Cafe, which will no doubt be even more cheerfully mobbed than usual for this special occasion.

After about an hour, the ships will depart again, heading west and hugging the Washington side at least as far as Tidewater Cove before crossing over to Portland and returning to base. That will also provide great viewing for neighbors all along the east Vancouver waterfront as well as for diners at the new restaurant at Tidewater Cove Marina, said Kat Pettersen, a Christmas Ships organizer.

“They have been great supporters,” Pettersen said.

For the rest of the month after that, the ship parade will usually split in two. The Columbia Fleet will visit sites along Vancouver’s waterfront like Wintler Park and Steamboat Landing, as well as Hayden Bay on the Oregon side. The Willamette Fleet will stick to southerly sites like Milwaukie and Portland’s Fremont Bridge. (Launch night for the whole year is Friday night, but the combined parade will stick to the Portland side then.)

On the web:

Watch this space in December for daily parade route maps and details. The combined fleet will visit Woodland on Dec. 11. Parade days off are Dec. 5, 9, 13 and 16.

While Christmas Shippers still love greeting their fans, the regular daytime meet-and-greets between skippers and admiring landlubbers, which used to be held on December weekends at Riverplace Marina, are canceled this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Other than that, organizers say, the only thing that ever results in a parade cancellation is bad weather. If that call gets made, it will be 30 minutes before the planned launch time.

By the way, Portland’s Christmas Ships parade has placed on the lower reaches of the 10best list several times before. When we last checked this year’s voting leaderboard, the Christmas Ships parade was coming in fourth in the whole nation, ahead of the colossal Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City, Chicago’s Magnificent Mile Lights Festival and Pasadena’s Tournament of Roses Parade.

Dare we dream of No. 1?

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