One of Santa Barbara’s signature holiday events — the 35th Annual Parade of Lights — will take place Sunday, Dec. 12, along with a number of other holiday activities, all of them free to attend.

Starting at noon families can visit a Winter Wonderland on the City Pier in Santa Barbara Harbor. There will be 10 tons of snow to play in, holiday music, elves, and possibly a visit from Santa, but he will not be available for sit-with-Santa photos.

At 5 p.m. a holiday tree lighting ceremony will be held on the shoreward finger of Stearns Wharf next to the Sea Center. Then, at 5:30 p.m., 30 illuminated watercraft, decked out for this year’s theme, Magic Under the Moonlight, will light up the night as they make their way from Leadbetter Beach down the coast to the Cabrillo Arts Pavilion, then back to Stearns Wharf.

The parade will be capped off by a brief fireworks show. Best viewing locations for the boat parade and fireworks include Stearns Wharf, the Breakwater, West Beach, and East Beach.

Registration for the competition is now open and is free to enter. Participants can enter one of five categories: Human-powered, Power, Sail, Commercial Fishing, or Commercial Other. Pick up entry forms at the Waterfront offices, or click here to fill it out and submit online. There will be thousands of dollars worth of prizes.

Unlike in years past, the human-powered category competition will be held during daylight at 4 p.m. Dozens of standup paddlers and kayakers dressed in festive attire will loop Stearns Wharf spreading holiday cheer.

Also new to the event this year will be an opportunity to give back to the community. The Waterfront Department is teaming up with Toys for Tots to bring holiday cheer to those in need. Donation boxes will be set up at the City Pier and on Stearns Wharf next to the Holiday Tree. Bring new, unwrapped toys, books, and stocking stuffers (avoid plush toys for sanitary reasons) for age groups one to 14.

This year’s event is sponsored by the 2021 Parade of Lights Committee, Santa Barbara Waterfront Department, Santa Barbara Harbor Merchants Association, Stearns Wharf Business Association, and Santa Barbara Yacht Club.

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