Nautical parade takes on new feel

Boat owners in the Demopolis area are invited to become a part of the Christmas on the River Nautical Parade by decorating their craft and joining the procession.

Buffy Etheridge, chairman of the night parade, said there is an incentive to become part of a tradition. Fred and Kim Hansard with the Demopolis Yacht Basin are donating a $500 prize to the best-lit boat in the lineup. Etheridge already has one commitment and is looking forward to many more small craft owners in the area to follow suit.

There is no entry fee to become a part of the parade. Etheridge asks that those who wish to take part let her know by the week of Thanksgiving so they can be placed in the lineup of floats and boats. Etheridge can be reached by phone at 216-1787.

Chairing the COTR Nautical Parade this year is a lot easier for Etheridge than it was in 2011. As a member of the Demopolis Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors, she volunteered to chair the event last year since no one else had come forward. Without a chair the signature night parade would have had to be cancelled.

Etheridge soon discovered several challenges facing her. All the floats had to be rewired. She had to line up 27 generators, which NES Rentals provided; find boat drivers to pull the pontoons, arranged by Michael Pope with the Demopolis Fire Department, and build a huge birthday cake float to celebrate COTR’s 40th anniversary.

This year things are a bit calmer. Everyone who helped last year is back on board, and the birthday cake float will show 41 years. To keep things interesting Etheridge and her volunteers are adding a few new features to the parade that will climax COTR on Dec. 1.

From now until the day of the parade, Etheridge, her husband Chris and dozens of community service volunteers will be working to prepare the floats. The 10 lighted “floats that really float” will feature a brand new Santa Claus design that is expected to wow the crowd along the riverbank. The lead five-panel Elf float is being repaired and refitted with thousands of LED lights, instead of the incandescent bulbs from past years. The new lights are brighter and will pull less energy. The new Santa float is being created with LED lights as well.

The unique Christmas Tree that decorated the scene last year will be on a pontoon moored on the bank for people to enjoy.

Anyone who wishes to volunteer to work on the floats is encouraged to show up at the COTR warehouse every Wednesday and Friday afternoon.