Much of the buzz for Labor Day weekend has centered on the 29th Gloucester Schooner Festival, with its nearly two dozen schooners, the Mayor’s Race and a myriad of other events.
But there is another Gloucester tradition that shouldn’t be swamped by the wake of the majestic schooners. The tradition of the Boat Parade of Lights may not be as long as that of the Schooner Festival, but that’s not to say it isn’t as proud.
“This is a Gloucester tradition that’s worth keeping,” said Tobin Dominick, owner and operator of Cape Ann’s Marina Resort on the Annisquam River and the organizer of Saturday’s parade. “It really signals the end of the summer season and takes in so much of the city.”
Dominick should know. It was her late father who started the parade in the early 1990s as an event celebrating the end of the boating season.
The parade features a winding flotilla of decorated boats — and crews — steaming with their running lights on in the growing darkness.
As the years have gone on, the parade has drawn fewer and fewer boats. Last year’s parade featured only about 20 boats and that is a trend Dominick hopes to reverse, starting with Saturday night’s edition of the parade.
The parade forms just before sunset at Jones Creek on the northern end of the Annisquam River, where those who haven’t pre-registered their boat — and Dominick strongly urges boat owners to pre-register at http://bit.ly/1dUMFQu for free.
“They’ll check in, get a number for the side of the boat and then we have to get everybody in line,” she said. “That can take some time. We usually get underway about 7:30.”
The parade route takes the flotilla down the Annisquam, usually with an escort from the Coast Guard and Gloucester Harbormaster, through the Cut Bridge and into Gloucester Harbor where the judge’s boat, donated by Cape Ann Whale Watch, will sit near the Man at the Wheel statue.