Harbor Lights Festival brings bedazzled boats, cookies, carols

Spectators walk past the Point Omega during the Harbor Lights Festival Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013 in St. Paul Harbor. (Photo by James Brooks / Flickr)

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

For one night every winter, vessel owners decorate their boats with Christmas lights and locals can walk the harbors and appreciate the display.

Toby Sullivan is the executive director of the Kodiak Maritime Museum, which organizes the Harbor Lights festival.

He says over the last five years, some vessel owners have also started opening up their boats to visitors.

“That’s something that we never foresaw when we started the festival, but there now are these hospitality suite-type boats where – I was on a boat last year and they had hot chocolate and smoked salmon. It was really nice.”

The event has been evolving for a while now. Sullivan says it began years ago as a holiday boat parade.

“People would stand on the dock at the ferry dock or park over at Oscar’s Dock on the spit and watch the boats go by, but frequently the weather was so bad as it has been these last few days that people didn’t want to take their boats out and it certainly wasn’t very conducive to standing outside and looking at boats.”

Weather continues to be the primary challenge – or at least what determines whether people show up to walk the harbors or not.

Toby Sullivan says last year’s Harbor Lights was chilly, but free of wind and rain.

“And it was a beautiful winter evening. It was kind of frosty and I think everyone felt very Christmasy, but the year before we had a big storm, and I think it snowed and rain and blew about 50 mph that afternoon. People still decorated their boats, but it was pretty horrendous outside.”

Harbor Lights isn’t limited to the docks.

The public can also drop by the Convention Center for cookies, carols, and a dance performance. The event be on Saturday, December 16 from 5 to 9 p.m.

Edit 12/13: The original version of this story did not include the date. The Harbor Lights Festival is Saturday, December 16.

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