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Harbor Glows For Holidays

Parade of Boats adds to festive mood during weekend of activities

As the sun set over the frigid Saturday afternoon, Old Town Alexandria waterfront took on a holiday glow as 50 brightly lit boats set course for Washington Harbor.

Dubbed the Holiday Boat Parade of Lights Weekend, Santa’s armada cast off at 5 p.m. from the marina behind the Torpedo Factory Arts Center. The brightly lighted crafts then cruised along a route that took them to the Washington Channel at Georgetown by 7 p.m.

On Sunday afternoon they participated in the Georgetown boat parade. Immediately prior to the Harbor Festival, Georgetown initiated its annual Winterfest.

Composed of both sail and power boats, the lighted crafts not only were outlined in holiday colors but many had full blown displays on their decks, everything from traditional trees, bells, and wreaths to Santa, his sleigh, and reindeer.

It was the beginning of the city’s third annual Holiday Parade of Boats and the first such extravaganza jointly hosted by the Alexandria Convention and Visitors Association (ACVA), the Georgetown BID, and the Southwest Waterfront Association.

Under the aegis of ACVA, Alexandria’s waterfront holiday celebration began at 3 p.m. with entertainment and refreshments at the marina. This was followed by an hour of decoratively lit boats of all sizes, outfitted with a myriad holiday themes, filling Old Town’s waterway.

THE PARADE CIRCLED the historic seaport’s waterfront before traveling up the channel to the District. “We have participants who have traveled long distances to participate in this event,” said Laura Overstreet, deputy director, ACVA. “The parade has been growing every year.”

Earlier Saturday, historic Alexandria kicked off its holiday season with the traditional Christmas Walk parade, now in its 32nd year. More than 300 Scottish clans were represented and a wide variety of the City’s other citizens, dogs of various breeds.

After the parade, designer decorated homes were open for visitors to tour and garner ideas. The area’s top interior designers and florists put their talents on display in six private homes plus the Lee-Fendall House.

There are many other events throughout the holidays, which officially got underway with the opening of the Christmas Marketplace and Cafe at the Campagna Center, 418 S. Washington St., on Thursday. It is a favorite spot for tourists and residents alike to purchase heather and greens.

In addition to the greenery, many of the area’s most talented craftspeople offer an array of potential gifts and decorating items at the Center. Items cover the gamut from floral decorations, to children’s gifts, to jewelry, to home accessories.

PRIOR TO SATURDAY’S Scottish Walk Parade, the Saint Andrew’s Society of Washington, D.C., held their traditional wreath laying ceremony and Advent Services at the Old Presbyterian Meeting House, 316 S. Royal St. The cemetery there is the resting place for some of Alexandria’s founding citizens.

The Saint Andrew’s Society piped worshipers into the sanctuary after placement of the traditional wreath at the tomb of Alexandria founder William Hunter. Offerings from the service go to further the efforts of the Campagna Center.

For those that wish to commemorate their visit to Old Town during the holidays, ACVA has sponsored the creation of a special holiday ornament which captures the essence of this seaport city during winter. It was created by regional artist Andrew Hencke and is on sale at the Ramsey House Visitors Center, 221 King St., throughout the season, according to Overstreet.

Finished in a matte royal blue glass, the ornament features an Old Town Alexandria street on one side and the city’s logo on the other. It was produced by Christmas by Krebs and sells for $12. Shoppers who present a copy of Alexandria Historic Holiday Planner will receive $2 off the purchase price.

The season culminates with First Night celebrations on New Year’s Eve throughout the city. “We have much more entertainment this year and expect to top our crowd of more than 5,000 from last year,” said Richard and Ann Dorman, directors of the event, at their booth Friday night during the Center’s Taste of Scotland.