Saturday night, the boats will be bobbing in a winter wonderland.
The annual Lights on the Lake boat parade begins at 6:30 p.m. Saturday from Buster Boyd Access Area. A captain’s meeting starts at 6 p.m. nearby at T-Bones on the Lake. Entry is $20 through Thursday. After that, the prices goes up to $25.
Susan Bromfield, president of the Lake Wylie Chamber of Commerce, said this year’s parade will be the 25th edition. It began as the first of its kind in the region. Now it’s become a holiday staple, and has only been canceled twice in a quarter of a century.
“One year with the drought when we had a land parade and car show, which was absolutely fabulous, and about 20-some years ago there was something. I don’t know, snow?,” Bromfield said.
Weather plays a big role in how many captains and spectators attend the parade. Despite the weather forecast calling for rain with temperatures in the 40s, "the show will go on rain or shine," Bromfield said. AccuWeather.com on Dec. 11 shows an 81 percent chance of rain during the day with a 35 percent chance at night.
But for some, weather is not a factor. The Thomas boat is a perennial powerhouse in the parade. Brad Thomas of Belmont comes up with a new theme each year. He started decorating for this year’s event on Sunday.
“There should be 12 to 14 of us,” he said. “We stack a good crowd.”
Thomas has eight first-place finishes and a couple more top threes. Last year it was unseasonably warm. The year before, Thomas had power cords and light strands freezing during decoration. He’s hoping for good weather this year, and for the “tailgate atmosphere” of the event.
“It’s reminiscent of a small-town parade, except with the lake and the lights and the night,” Thomas said.
For others, the parade is about watching to see how others decorate their boats. Each year crowds gather in the lakefront yards along both sides of the lake near Buster Boyd, at the access area and at T-Bones.
“We love the boat parade,” said Haven Presley, whose family owns the restaurant. “That’s honestly one of my favorite days of the year, because the boats are beautiful on the water.”
Hot chocolate and s’mores will be on hand, and this year, Santa will stop by T-Bones during the event to pass out candy canes to children.
“T-Bones is like the Griswolds kind of, the way we decorate over the top,” Presley said, “so it’s just right up our alley.”