Grinch won’t steal Christmas from Chimes and Lights Festival

Some traditional events canceled, others modified due to COVID-19

By Mike De Felice

Special to Kitsap Daily News

PORT ORCHARD – This holiday season will be a hit, says Festival of Chimes and Lights chairwoman Cindy Lucarelli, regardless of the presence of an honest-to-goodness Grinch: COVID-19.

Some of the popular events of the annual Festival of Chimes and Lights holiday event will not be held this year due to the pandemic, Lucarelli said this week. Organizers, meanwhile, have created some new experiences to add sparkle to the celebration and will convert some events to a virtual format so families can still enjoy them in the comfort of their homes.


Mainstay events not taking place include photo sessions with Santa, choir performances at the main stage at City Hall, the appearance of the South Kitsap High School Marching Band and the popular parade by pets in holiday costumes.

Events to be modified include the lighted boat contest, Jolly Jingle 5-K Run and the community tree-lighting event.

“The purpose of the festival is to bring joy to the community. It’s been a very stressful time for most people and as we get into the winter months, we need to bring a little extra joy to the community — something uplifting rather than more bad news,” said Lucarelli, who also is a Port Orchard City Council member.

The lighted boat contest, organized by The Sinclair Inlet Yacht Club, will not be as formal as in past years. Decorated boats that dock at the marina or pass by downtown will provide colorful photo opportunities. Details of the event are still being worked out, Lucarelli said.


Normally, this attraction draws thousands of spectators to the Port Orchard Marina to view dozens of decorated vessels docked at the piers. However, gatherings in the hundreds and thousands do not meet Gov. Jay Inslee’s mandate prohibiting large crowds, organizers said.


The annual tree lighting event outside City Hall, which traditionally attracts lots of spectators, is also going virtual. This year, the winter festival will still have the 3- to 4-story Christmas tree decorated and photos of it put on the city’s website:

During the festival, the downtown waterfront will showcase elaborate holiday displays, courtesy of the city and the Port of Bremerton, Lucarelli said.

“The Port is doing even more lights and displays this year,” she said. “Kitsap Bank, which has sponsored the event for years, will do tons of lights. There will be a lot for people to drive by and see along the waterfront and there will be lovely music playing.”

Sponsored trees

Bay Street will be decked out as usual during the holiday season. In addition to merchants decorating their store windows, the festival is again sponsoring a tree decorating contest. Individuals and businesses can sponsor one of more than 50 evergreen trees placed in planters along Bay Street. Applicants can begin decorating on Nov. 7. Tree judging categories will include Best Vintage, Most Creative and Best Business Representation.

Those interested in participating in the contest are asked to mail their reservation and $50 payment to the City Clerk’s Office, 216 Prospect St., Port Orchard, WA 98366.

Rocks of cheer

A rock painting event will be new this year. Would-be artists will paint rocks with holiday pictures or words portraying positive and heartwarming messages. Rocks are to be hidden Nov. 7-24 in several local parks and throughout downtown. Participants are asked to send a photo of their masterpiece to the city’s website so it can be displayed there and on social media.

A how-to-paint-rocks video, featuring the Fathoms O’ Fun Royalty Court, is available for viewing on the same website.

House lights

This year, festival officials are asking residents to decorate their homes with holiday lights for the enjoyment of the community.

“We are calling it Lights of Joy,” Lucarelli said.

“We are encouraging people to light up their home even if it’s with a single strand of lights. If everyone did something with lights, it would be great. More than ever before, this year needs it,” she said.

People are asked to send photos of their yard’s light displays to the city’s website so they can be enjoyed by others.

The best display by a neighborhood and the top decorated home will be recognized.

Jolly Jingle Virtual 5K

Runners can help raise funds to support the South Kitsap Helpline Food Bank by entering the Jolly Jingle Virtual 5K Race. The entry fee is $30.

Participants will run the virtual race on their own at any location on Dec. 5 or 6 and record their time online. Finishers will be awarded a white mask sporting the SKHL logo.

“The nonprofit is going to need a lot of help this year. There are a lot of families that need help with food,” Lucarelli said.

For additional information on the race, contact the race director at

The presenting sponsor for this year’s Festival of Chimes and Lights is Kitsap Bank. Fathoms O’ Fun Festival, Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce, Port Orchard Bay Street Association, Port of Bremerton-Port Orchard Marina and Sinclair Inlet Yacht Club are co-sponsors.

This is the 22nd year of the holiday extravaganza, which first began to celebrate the opening of City Hall and its tower that played chimes, according to Lucarelli.