By land and by sea, Christmas is making its way to the Coast.
Hundreds of residents took to the beach, to harbors and even to casino parking garages to check out the 31st annual Christmas on the Water Boat Parade on Saturday night.
A stream of close to 40 boats decked out in Christmas lights and images floated by, many playing Christmas songs as they headed from Point Cadet Pier west toward the Biloxi Pier and back again.
Meanwhile in Long Beach, boats decked out with Christmas cheer rolled rather than floated — down Jefferson Davis Avenue, in what was billed as a “waterless” boat parade.
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Several Biloxi paradegoers took up position in the Biloxi Small Craft Harbor behind MacElroy’s Restaurant to get as close a look at this year’s schooners and other watercraft as possible. Many spectators lined the beaches or grabbed spots on the parking garages of the Beau Rivage and Hard Rock casinos.
Biloxian Thunder William, who works at the Beau Rivage, brought his two kids, 6-year-old Evan and 9-year-old Fallon William, to see the parade Saturday night.
“Look at that one,” Evan said, as a schooner decorated with neon blue lights slowly passed by.
Thunder William said he thought there’d be more than the 40 or so boats that turned out for the parade, but said any number of boats is still a good thing to see in post-Katrina times.
“I remember it before Katrina, and after. I’d like to see it get to where it was before, with about 80 or so boats participating,” he said. “But I’m not complaining. There were, what? Three or four the year of the storm?”
Close by, Rich and Theresa Taylor of California might not have moved all the way to the Coast just for the parade, but did think it would be a good idea to check it out.
“We just moved here to be closer to family,” Rich Taylor said. “We’d check out all the Christmas stuff out there, in the mining town we used to live in. So this is different, to see something take place on the water. It’s pretty neat.”
Following tradition, Tracy Diehl of Ocean Springs and Renee Townsend of Gulfport brought a set of chairs to park at the small-craft harbor and enjoy the night.
Most participants were bundled up for the parade as a cold breeze swept across the harbor.
It was a cool night for the Coast and even colder weather is expected this weekend.