LAKE LANIER — Every holiday season, the Lanier Partners of North Georgia, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, puts on one beautiful festive event all in the name of charity. The annual Holiday Boat Light Parade is a floating holiday light display that parades down the lake in the form of individual boat owners who deck their boats out in lights and festive cheer.
Boat owners register to participate in the event and their registration fee is their “donation” to be given to the charity of choice by the Lanier Partners organization. This year’s recipient of the proceeds of the event is the Georgia Sheriff’s Youth Homes organization. Each participant can decorate their boat with lights and other decorations to compete in 11 total categories.
This year’s event was held on Saturday, Dec. 12, with participating boats meeting up at Port Royale in the early evening to begin the parade. Led by a tow boat from Tow Boat USA Lake Lanier, the parade of more than 30 boats set out from Port Royale and made its way down the lake with participants first to be judged at Aqualand Marina by the parade’s Grand Marshall Barkley Geib and judges. The beautifully decorated boats finished their journey at Margaritaville.
Participating boats ranged in size from massive houseboats to small bowriders. The decorations went from the basic to fully decked out and blowing snow. No matter the size or the scale of decorations, there was a common thing — holiday cheer.
Their spirit was infectious and delighted spectators who lined the shores at various viewing sites around the south end of the lake and those on boats. Not even the rain could dampen the mood felt by all.
This year’s winners are Grand Prize: Tom Stepnowski; Best Sailboat: Doug Neal; Best Bowrider: Conner Brown; Best Pontoon: Courtney St John-Wacker; Best Cabin Cruiser: Brian Smith; Best Houseboat: Steve Venable; Best Yacht: Michael Hodnet; Best Theme: The Grimsleys; Best Crew: Terri Stagg; Most Festive: Bill Quale; and Most Decorated: Tom Stepnowski.
— Alicia Couch Payne