Red, green and a riot of other colors will sparkle on boats gliding along the Sausalito waterfront during the 35th Lighted Boat Parade and Fireworks celebration Saturday evening.

For decades, folks have gathered to watch the free event, in which brightly lit, beautifully decorated boats sail the length of the Sausalito shoreline. The event begins at 6 p.m., but savvy celebrants arrive by 5 p.m. or earlier to grab a good spot.

Word on the street is that the best outdoor spot for parade viewing is Gabrielson Park, located at Anchor Street and Humboldt Avenue. Another option is to watch from one of the restaurants in the vicinity. In the event of rain, those restaurants could be attendees’ best bet.

Fireworks explode above lighted boats gliding along the Sausalito waterfront in the 2021 Lighted Boat Parade and Fireworks celebration. (Photo by Pam Wycliffe)

“The weather in the Bay Area is not that predictable, but the parade will go on regardless,” said Lisa Scopazzi, a parade organizer.

Early birds have snapped up all of the approximately 150 paid seats that were available earlier, according to Scopazzi.

About 65 boats have signed up to take part.

Choose your vessel

“My favorite part of the event isn’t the conventional vessels,” she noted. “We have about 30 human-powered boats, which include kayaks, stand-up paddleboards and rowboats,” Scopazzi said.

“They string lights up and down their vessels and decorate themselves,” giving rise to a sort of aquatic Burning Man, with cold temperatures to contend with instead of desert heat.

“They paddle right up against the Sausalito shoreline. Sometimes they sing Christmas carols. It’s like a double parade” with the human-powered boats in the foreground and sailboats, powerboats and other vessels further out in the water, she said.

The lighted boat parade is sort of like an aquatic Burning Man, with cold temperatures to contend with instead of desert heat.

The event is part of Sausalito Winterfest, a two-day event running Dec. 10-11 that includes the Jingle Bell 5K and Brunch as well as the boat parade.

The parade lasts until around 7:15 p.m. as the various vessels pass the Sausalito Yacht Club, a panel of judges rates the decorations. Last year’s winners are listed on the event website.

After the last vessel has been judged, the fireworks begin.

Something to remember: When the event ends, hundreds of people will be hopping in their cars and driving on Bridgeway. Rather than ending up in a traffic jam, celebrants might want to take a stroll or stop at a restaurant for a drink or a bite to eat.

“There’s 50 restaurants in Sausalito,” Scopazzi noted.

The most important tip: Dress warmly, and be prepared for rain.

More information about the boat parade and Winterfest can be found online.