Third Annual Harbor Lights Festival Saturday

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

With the shortest day of the year fast approaching on December 21, a nighttime stroll along a harbor bedecked with Christmas lights may be just what Kodiak residents need.

The Kodiak Maritime Museum is preparing for its third annual Harbor Lights Festival. This weekend, boat owners at St. Paul Harbor downtown and St. Herman’s Harbor on Near Island will decorate their vessels and invite the public to vote on their favorites.                                                                          

The Kodiak Maritime Museum’s Executive Director Toby Sullivan says the Harbor Lights Festival is a child of the Christmas Boat Parade, which continued from the 90s and into the early 2000s, but gradually faded away.
“It was where fishermen decorated their boats with Christmas lights and then they all lined up on a certain evening in December and they sailed them down the channel and they turned them around, and it was really a fun event, but the problem was often the weather in December isn’t very cooperative and fishermen sometimes didn’t want to go out or they just didn’t want to participate or it was just too rough to participate.”

He says he and the Kodiak City Mayor came up with the Harbor Lights Festival, which solves the weather issue by keeping the boats docked. An added bonus is that it’s also more of a community oriented event than its predecessor.

“The original boat parade was fun to look at, but people tended to watch it from their houses along the channel if they had a house there or in their cars on the spit, so people weren’t really together. They were separated out, and it was a spectator event, where this festival is much more of a community gathering. I mean, the last few years there’s been hundreds and hundreds of people with their kids and their dogs, walking on the harbor floats.”

And some boat owners may even want to leave their lights up after the Harbor Lights Festival. Sullivan says he used to decorate his boat with lights, and not necessarily during the holidays.

“I fished out west and with my own boat for many years and we used to often put the little tiny Christmas lights – we’d string them up in the galley or in the forepeak where we were sleeping, because you could leave them on all the time and then you could see if you had to get in and go up and down on watch, you wouldn’t wake other people up. Those colored lights have an ambience that improves your mood. At least, it improves my mood.”

The top three decorated vessels to get the most votes will receive gift certificates to Sutliff’s True Value Hardware. There will also be an Open House at the Harbor Convention Center, where you can bid at a silent auction to raise funds for the Kodiak Maritime Museum and enjoy some snacks. The event begins at 5 p.m. Saturday and continues until 9 p.m.

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