Perhaps eight years ago my friend Jeannine and I went down to the Port in early December for Ilwaco’s Christmas lighting festivities. I can’t remember if the crab pot tree was a yearly thing by then, but I do recall that we walked around and couldn’t even find a place offering a cup of hot chocolate. What disappointment we felt on a cold dark evening to find so little going on. Perhaps a few boats were lit up, perhaps there WAS a crab pot tree, perhaps a shop or two was open…but it seemed there should be MORE!
What a difference a few years makes. The “Crab Pot Christmas Tree Lighting and Lighted Boat Parade” draws a crowd on the first Saturday in December, hot chocolate and cookies are always offered at the Don Nisbett Art Gallery during the event, and Time Enough Books, the Saturday Christmas Market and at least three restaurants are open into the evening. The town has excelled itself with new crab pot themed street light displays on the approach to the crab pot tree itself.
To open the evening, a crowd gathered at the crab pot tree at 5 to watch “the world’s shortest fireworks display” and sing crabby carols.
The first glimpse of the lighted boats came via Santa in this little craft, with Ilwaco Landing fish processing place in the background (from the crab pot tree field).
Don’t be late for the crab pot carols! Our friend Cheri missed them by arriving just a bit past five, because there are only three or four songs!
After the caroling everyone walked past the bustling Jessie’s Ilwaco Fish Co and its lighted Christmas star to the port where the boats awaited the parade.
Soon we could see the stunningly gorgeous Coast Guard boat motoring in. It docked long enough for all the boats to be admired; then at six o clock, the boats went out to the Columbia River bar and back. I was helping the mayor with the judging and presenting of awards to the best decorated boats, an amusing task because he, I, and the third judge, Diane, were all sore for one reason or another and had trouble walking down to the docks; I stayed ashore holding Mayor Mike’s coffee mug and some of the award plaques; Diane fell partly in the water by taking a misstep by the Coast Guard boat (disaster averted; she did not even drop the plaque she was carrying!). I took a video of the boats motoring out in their beautiful procession and it seemed the only unhappy person at the port was a baby who suddenly started wailing loudly next to me.
Surefooted Allan roamed the docks getting some excellent still photos; I saw him setting up his tripod on a narrow dock in the dark and was amazed that HE did not also fall in! The results were so good that our local paper picked up one of the lighted boats photos for their news story.
After the boats paraded out toward the bar, the crowds lingered to enjoy dining or browsing at the shops or the Saturday Christmas market, open for this special evening. The Port Office had exceptionally good lights this year.
We had TWO cups each of delicious “adult” hot chocolate from the Nisbett gallery and fish tacos from Olebob’s Café. Other diners thronged the Tuscany Café and Pelicano Restaurant.
Santa and Mrs. Claus got around, first appearing at the crab pot tree, then shopping at Time Enough Books and later hangin’ with Don at his art gallery.
Determined and forward thinking shopkeepers, artists, restaurateurs, and port and city officials) have made this a completely satisfying event not to be missed. I look forward to it all year and it is a bigger Christmas-y evening for me than Christmas itself. Next year come drink a cup of that delicious hot chocolate, dine with a view of the sparkling lights and maybe even adopt a lighted boat yourself.
For more photos of Ilwaco’s holiday festivities, including Tuba Christmas and the Saturday Christmas Market, see Discover Ilwaco’s photo album. A second album featured the many lights of homes and businesses which have lifted our spirits and given us joy in the early dark evenings of winter. Even the sewer plant wishes us happy holidays.
Till next year…wishing you the traditionally crabby Ilwaco Christmas.
“Oh crab pot tree, crab pot tree, made of steel and wire.
Put another crab pot on; let’s make this tree grow higher.
Oh crab pot tree, crab pot tree, with your buoys and lights;
Let’s cook up some crab and have some Dungeness tonight.”
(almost) all photos by Allan Fritz