Poulsbo Lighted Ships Parade celebrates 50 Years

The City of Poulsbo and Mayor Becky Erickson have declared Dec. 14, “Poulsbo Yacht Club Lighted Ships Parade Day,” in honor of the 50 years of joy this holiday tradition has brought to the community.

Each year, since 1969 Rudolph (the red-nosed reindeer) guides Santa through the waters of Puget Sound, Liberty Bay, and the Salish Sea as he calls out holiday greetings to those onshore. The tradition began as a way for the Poulsbo Yacht Club to demonstrate its community spirit, beyond the individual time, money and efforts of its members.

In 1969, ships cruised the bay for four nights playing Christmas carols and calling out messages to children along the shores. The tradition has continued even through turbulent times such as the fuel shortage of the 1970s which forced the club to only have five boats out on the water as opposed to the many that light up the night.

“Poulsbo Yacht Club’s Lighted Ships Parade has been an integral part of Poulsbo’s holiday celebrations for 50 years. Year after year, our neighbors along Liberty Bay, Bainbridge Island, Agate Pass, and Suquamish plan their holiday parties [to] coincide with Santa making his visit along the water. It is truly a joy to pass by dock after dock, filled with young and young at heart waving at Santa as he cruises along. The young are truly awed that Santa knows their names and calls out specific greetings to them. Our boating community takes great pride in providing an entertaining and festive evening for everyone onshore,” said Poulsbo Yacht Club Commodore Marianne Brooke.

This 50th Anniversary Parade will be bigger and better in many ways. Ships from all over Puget Sound will be joining in the fun.

Those who would like to have a holiday greeting called out to them by Santa should submit their greeting to Santa@PoulsboYC.org. The requests should include the following details;

The name of the person to receive the greeting from Santa

Their location and address of where that person will be during the parade, as long as it is along the route.

The content of the message.

It should be noted that the message does not have to be holiday-related.

To honor this event, the Poulsbo Yacht Club is encouraging its boating neighbors to join in the celebration and fill the night with as many lighted ships as possible. The yacht club has partnered with the Port of Poulsbo, which will offer two nights of complimentary moorage (Dec. 13 and Dec. 14). Participants will also be able to enjoy a dinner at the Poulsbo Yacht Club on Dec. 13.

With safety in mind, the yacht club encourages potential participants to sign up on the Poulsbo Yacht Club website early to register their ship as well as to attend the mandatory captain’s meeting on Dec. 14.

The parade route begins at the Poulsbo Yacht Club at approximately 5 p.m. A map of the full route is available on the website, though instructions are offered below:

5 p.m. proceed directly to downtown Poulsbo.

5:30 p.m. Head south, following the west side of Liberty Bay, to Keyport

7:40 p.m. Cross to Manzanita Bay and up the west side of Bainbridge Island through Agate Pass to the Suquamish dock

8:20 p.m. Return back down the west side of Agate Pass to Point Bolin

9:15 p.m. North to Lemolo and the eastside of Liberty Bay passing Liberty Bay Marina where the parade ends.

It should be noted that it is OK to only participate in a portion of the parade that wishes too.

Awards will be presented to the ship captains and crews at the end of the parade back at the yacht club.

Meanwhile, onshore spectators can enjoy hot chocolate and cookies provided by multiple Poulsbo merchants and performances from youth choirs, Tuba Christmas and the Poulsbo Community Orchestra’s Viking Brass.