Parade of Lights illuminates San Diego Bay for 50th year

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SAN DIEGO — Families cozied up with blankets and beanies Sunday night to enjoy the 50th annual Parade of Lights along the San Diego Bay waterfront.

“There was that one boat that had the complete theme set with the partridge in the pear tree and five gold rings,” said Ron Manalo, a Chula Vista resident.

The Manalo family experienced the parade for the first time this year, sitting along Shelter Island with a fire pit and s’mores. They watched with thousands of others as more than 80 boats decked out in colorful holiday lights and decorations illuminated the San Diego Bay.

“My wife and I had never been before and we thought it would be fun for the kids to see,” Manalo said.

With so many beautiful boats, it was difficult for spectators to choose a favorite.

“There was this boat that had all these blown up [characters], we thought were really cool,” said Shannon Ruddick, a Santee resident.

One of the last boats in the parade was decorated by volunteers of the Good Neighbor Project, a non-profit focused on involving inner city youth in education opportunities.

John Alvarado, the founder and executive director of the non-profit, has decorated a boat for the parade for 10 years. This year, he expressed his gratitude for his Native American heritage. 

“We have a flag representing [Native Americans] and we have the 12 Days of Christmas with all these indigenous Indian children,” Alvarado said. “It’s beautiful to go out tonight and represent not only who we are on the bay, but who we are as a nation.”

The Parade of Lights happens on Dec. 12 and 19. The boats begin at Shelter Island and travel east passing Harbor Island, then south along the Embarcadero and finish at the Coronado Ferry Landing.

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