This weekend, the Savannah Harbor Foundation, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization created in 2001 to “support local family-oriented charities, promote scholarships, and present family-oriented community events,” will be hosting the 19th annual Boat Parade of Lights.
“The people involved are so excited,” says Captain Lee Alexander who has been running the parade for the past six years. “Every year I get more and more people and a lot of them have been decorating since the beginning of October. All I know is that I started my first year with like seven boats, and this year we’re up to fifty.”Get Savannah arts and culture news delivered to your inbox: Sign up for our morning, afternoon and Dine newsletters
Captain Alexander’s initial introduction to the annual festival was incidental in itself.
“I have my captain's license and transport vessels up and down the East Coast, so Savannah is one of my ports. On our way back from Florida, we decided to stop there to check out the town because when I’m on a transport job I don’t get time to go socialize and sightsee," she said.
“We stopped and ate dinner that Friday, and there was a brochure on the table for the boat lighting parade the next day, so we decided to see the parade. That was seven years ago, six years ago I was working for a company on Skidaway Island where I teach women and men how to pilot their vessels after they buy one, so I went to the Westin to see how much it would be to enter our boat into the parade. I walked out of there not only entering our boat but running the parade,” she adds incredulously.
“I just told them I love boating, its’ my passion and I’ve been very lucky to have boated all my life. I enjoy meeting people, and I enjoy getting the women out there and letting them be able to pilot the boat as well. I’ve been running it ever since.”
The parade and boating education in general also holds a very personal connection for Alexander, “My dad passed away the day after Thanksgiving, so for me to have this event and to do this is honoring him. My dad taught me everything I know about boating, when he passed I inherited his vessel and got the notion to get my own captain's license, so I self-taught myself for eight months before actually getting my license.”
Alexander’s personable attitude shines through and paired with her boating experience has allowed her to vastly branch out within the local boating community.
“I have personal contact with a lot of the entrants, they’ve invited me into their homes, and I’ve got a lot of really nice friends down there as well, and they’re all excited, and I get excited as well," she said. "They’re like kids on Christmas. So I’m excited just to see the smiles on everyone’s faces and enjoy peace. Everybody gets together with nothing to argue about and just takes the time to enjoy the moment and enjoy the beauty of the boats, the river, the fireworks, and have a great time.”
While the event is open for public viewing along River Street, The Westin Savannah will be hosting choir and bagpipe performances as well as an annual pre-parade ceremony for a $10 adult admission charge, accepted for the Savannah Harbor Foundation. The organization will also be collecting toys and gift cards for Greenbriar Children's Center.