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Portland’s Christmas Ships Parade Will Navigate the Waters Again This Year, Even During a Pandemic

“We’re thrilled to bring a sense of normal to this holiday season.”

Just when you thought every Portland Christmas tradition had been scrapped due to COVID-19, there's some uplifting news from an annual event that has long been ready for the era of physical distancing.

The Christmas Ships Parade will take place as scheduled, launching Dec. 4 and navigating the Willamette and Columbia Rivers for 15 nights.

"While we are excited to bring joy to our community each and every year, the crazy and unprecedented times in 2020 have dramatically increased that excitement," says Rob Steffeck, Christmas Ships Parade president and Willamette Fleet leader. "We're thrilled to bring a sense of normal to this holiday season."

The festive flotilla is in its 66th year and has the distinction of being the longest continuously lighted boat parade in the country. It will continue to hold that title, even during a pandemic, because spectators will be on shore and far from the crews on the 70 participating vessels, all of whom are operating according to COVID-19 guidelines.

There are a few aspects of the parade that are canceled this year, though, like the meet-and-greets as well as open house activities. And while many people enjoy watching the boats from the comfort of a waterside bar or restaurant, that won't be an option this year. Spectators should bundle up and continue to follow safety measures outdoors, including wearing masks, maintaining 6 feet of distance from other people and limiting group size.

It is possible that inclement weather could cause unsafe boating conditions, leading to a cancellation. Notifications will be posted on the event's website and social media platforms.

Since the parade is all volunteer-based, with fleet members paying their own expenses and additional support traditionally coming from the now hard-hit hospitality industry, donations are appreciated.