KALAMA — A parade of boats adorned with lights and other decorations will light up the Kalama waterfront for the fourth year Saturday, and this year organizers are braced for a large crowd.
The Festival of Lighted Boats tent opens at 5 p.m., with the parade on the Columbia River starting around 6 p.m. Between 17 to 20 boats will participate in the waterborne event.
Hosted by the Kalama Chamber of Commerce and the Dolphin Yacht club, the event includes live music, children’s games, photos with Santa, a McMenamins beer garden, and food and drinks.
Event organizer and Dolphin Yacht Club member Jeff Creagan said the event has “blown up” from its 2015 beginnings.
“It’s hard for us to pull off, but we like to do it for the community,” Creagan said.
The organizers increased the police presence and traffic control after a big crowd and limited parking last year. Two offsite parking areas are available and organizers rented buses to shuttle people to the Marine Park. The parking lots are at 552 Hendrickson Drive, about two miles down the road from the park.
Creagan’s wife and fellow organizer, Jeanette Creagan, said the traffic control should help prevent parking problems that occurred last year. She suggests people coming from out of town should take Interstate 5 exit 27 to get to the parking lot.
“It ends up being bigger than we think it is,” Creagan said. “We just want to keep everybody safe.”
Creagan said they are asking for a $2 donation from people who use the shuttles to help cover the additional cost. Support from local sponsors make the event possible, she added.
Community involvement in the event has grown over the years, and Creagan expects it to continue as the event gets bigger.
Volunteers from the Chamber and the yacht club will run the event tent housing games and photos with Santa. They also will serve chili, nachos and hot drinks. The Kalama High School jazz band will perform at the park.
Taryn Nelson of the Kalama Chamber of Commerce said having McMenamins right next door to the Marine Park adds to the atmosphere of the event and gives people another place to watch the parade. Nelson said McMenamins creates a whole new crowd of people aware of Kalama and interested in local events.
Organizers try to brace for a large crowd, but Creagan said the turnout always surprises her.
“We’re hoping it continues to get bigger and better,” she said.