GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - It’s a Christmas tradition with a nautical flair. The annual Christmas on the Bayou returns this weekend for its 20th year.
The boat parade, which features dozens of boats decked out for the holidays, is happening Saturday, Dec. 14, in Gulfport.
One of the boats you’ll see in the parade is “The Queen,” a 64-foot boat owned by Kenny Young. He says he enjoys getting everything together for the event and participating each year.
“I pretty much go all out all the time,” Young said. “It’s a very enjoyable parade. We love all the boats that participate. There are usually 50-60 boats that come out. The boats are all sizes. The smaller boats just go all out. Some of the themes they come up with will blow your mind.”
Although the parade is a Gulfport holiday tradition, boats from all across South Mississippi participate.
“We get boats from all over the Coast,” said organizer Melanie Clark. “We’ve had some come down from Wiggins. We’ve had some from Picayune, and we had a boat from Slidell. We’ve embraced the parade. Obviously, Biloxi’s Christmas on the Water was the first parade on the Coast. We’ve embraced them and asked them to come and parade with us.”
Christmas On The Bayou is a unique event because not only do the boats decorate and participate in the lighted parade but the waterfront houses also compete to be named the Parade Captain’s Best House on the Bayou and serve as parade judges.
The event is completely organized and presented by neighborhood volunteers and community donors. With multiple places for the people to watch, Christmas on the Bayou gives everyone an up close and personal view of the boats with public viewing at three Gulfport boat launches/parks, and several waterfront restaurants.
The parade begins in Gulfport Lake between The Dock Bar and Grill and the public boat ramps. The City of Gulfport will have bleacher seating for the public near the boat ramps on the south side of the lake.
Boat will start to gather in the lake around 5 p.m. The parade begins at 6 p.m. with the boats floating past the viewing stands and down Bayou Bernard to the mouth of the bayou at Big Lake.
Public viewing will also be allowed the Blow Fly Inn, Kremer’s Landing at the foot of the Cowan-Lorraine Bridge, and Switzer Park. It will take 90 minutes to get from the start of the parade to the Cowan Lorraine Bridge. At the end of the procession, all of the boats will proceed down the Industrial Canal and rendezvous at The Dock Bar and Grill for the awards presentation and parade after party.
Anyone who is interested in joining this year’s parade is encouraged to attend the Captain’s Meeting at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 12, at the Bayou Vista Clubhouse, which is just off Washington Avenue in Gulfport. For more information about the parade, visit Christmas on the Bayou’s website HERE.