Columnists Judy Salamacha

Memories of Morro Bay Lighted Boat Parade — Moving Forward

Then & Now

By Judy Salamacha


Way back when — either 1969 or ‘70 — Morro Bay’s Chamber of Commerce launched the first Lighted Boat Parade in early December.

All manner of watercrafts — motorized, paddled, putt-putted or slightly-sailed — were decorated for the holidays and paraded along the bay-front to the delight of locals and visitors. Carolers and holiday favorites blasting over a PA were not required, but always generated cheers from onlookers, freezing dockside or warmed inside restaurants and businesses with viewing space.

The Hermann Family — Dick, Tracy, Alice and Miles — became residents of Morro Bay in 1982 and after attending their first boat parade, they were hooked. Their first entry was their ’59 Lone Star with a few lights and sprayed weeds from California Valley.

Dick knew they could do better. He thought they could dress up their dinghy “…to compete with the yachts.” The family would brainstorm and build under tarps in their driveway until parade night, and for at least 27 years they became the family entry most anticipated for creativity and fun.

In 1992, Alice was in kindergarten when she drew a blue fish that inspired her father to design their first winner. However, as a sophomore in high school, she told this columnist their 2007 entry depicting a Seahorse gliding across the bay on its tail was her favorite. Dick countered that “Rocket Man” was the best. Neither could recall how many times they took top honors.

“We’ve done trains, planes, and race cars,” Dick said. “We did Snoopy and the Red Baron, Smiley Fish Face, and Gummy Bear. The UFO was also one of the best because it looked liked it hovered as it sailed around the bay.”

Revving up his race car, the Grinch was a crowd-pleaser, as was Sponge Bob and the Christmas Express. In 2008, they won Best of Show for Jolly Time and his Green Low Rider Machine. Tracy maneuvered the lever that popped the wheelies while Miles inspired its twice-time pipes and flames.

For years The Bay News’ Neil Farrell announced the parade from the South T-Pier with the White Caps Band playing music, while Rotarian and former Morro Bay City Councilman Rick Grantham announced the entries from the Morro Bay Yacht Club. Grantham recalled, “The Breast Cancer Survivor canoes were always one of my favs along with Fish and Game’s big boats. I’m glad to see its popularity seems to be growing again as an established event.”

About three years ago, Morro Bay Rotary Club picked up the organizational duties. Last year Past-President Dan Costley convinced members to add a “Snow Day” before the parade.

In 2016-17 the Morro Bay Recreation and Tourism Departments have teamed up with Rotary and hired an event planner, fellow-columnist, Teri Bayus, to expand Rotary’s additions of Santa, uber-cookie offerings and a Snow Play-Day.

Bayus announced Winterfest (see: will kick off with a 2-day offering, Dec. 1-2, of restaurant-sponsored cruisin’ boats on Friday evening, followed by Saturday’s main parade and award’s night with $1,000 total prize monies, and they’re expecting 40-plus boats to enter.

Rotarians built a new and permanent Santa’s House, the first ever for Morro Bay. Count on more cookies and cocoa! Or reserve early to head indoors at any waterfront eatery. Don’t miss the Crab Pot Christmas Trees created by Morro Bay’s Women for Fisheries.

Before the parade, Morro Bay In Bloom celebrates the Surfboard Art Festival extravaganza and final bidding at the Inn at Morro Bay.

Sunday afternoon (1-4 p.m.) decorated paddleboards, kayaks or dinghy-boats will compete for prizes during the first annual non-motorized paddle parade. The Hawaiian Chieftain and Lady Washington offer tours and sails Dec. 4-7.

A “Santa Crawl” was discovered by Bayus while on holiday elsewhere. “It’s an adult scavenger hunt,” she explains. “Participants will receive a passport to visit participating establishments on the Embarcadero and Downtown. Free shuttles will transport. Retailers will host a winery offering tastings somewhere in their facility. Prizes will be awarded for fully stamped passports.” Available at STAX Wine Bar and the newly crafted Santa House, it happens Friday, Dec. 8, from 6-9 p.m.

Tall ship battles engage Saturday, Dec. 9 from 2-3 p.m. The best vantage point is either onboard or along the Harbor Walk to Morro Rock. Also, from 1-4pm at the Inn at Morro Bay, professionals and amateur hopefuls will build gingerbread houses for more prizes.

Snow Day happens Sunday, Dec.r 10. Rotarians will have two, age-specific, snow-play areas at Tidelands Park from 1-4. Monday is Bounce-Back Shopping before Santa moves on Tuesday, Dec. 12. He will be boat-escorted by the Coast Guard and Harbor Cruisers beyond the bay to journey Santa-style to the North Pole.

Bayus invites all to bring the kids to the waterfront to wave good-bye and witness the grand finale surprise for Winterfest 2017.

Freelance writer, columnist and author of “Colonel Baker’s Field: An American Pioneer Story,” Judy Salamacha’s Then & Now column is a regular feature of Simply Clear Marketing & Media. Contact her at: or (805) 801-1422 with story ideas.