Holiday Spirit: Christmas Ship Parade Returns to St. Helens | New

The Columbia River will sparkle in early December as the annual Christmas Ship Parade returns to the St. Helens waterfront with a dazzling display of Christmas lights on Saturday, December 10.

The Christmas Ship Parade begins at 6 p.m. on December 10 at the docks in St. Helens City.

The Christmas Ships Parade is operated by Christmas Ships, Inc., a non-profit organization. The parade began in 1954 and is an annual holiday tradition on the Columbia and Willamette rivers.

The event attracts both new and returning parade participants. Organizers said participants tend to return every year – several have been marching for more than 40 years and many have made it a multi-generational tradition, with children of previous participants returning with their own boats and families to parade.


The Christmas Ship Parade began with a decorated sailboat in 1954 and has since grown to over 70 participating boats. The all-volunteer-run event lasts 15 nights in December and travels the Willamette and Columbia Rivers in the Portland metro area, providing communities the opportunity to view it from the riverfront, restaurants, parks, neighborhoods and roadsides along rivers.

According to Chelsea Rose, a member of the Oregon Heritage Commission and former chair, the parade’s designation as an Oregon Heritage Tradition recognizes the traditions that have helped define the state’s character.

“The Christmas Ship Parade is tied to the importance of the river to Oregon’s heritage and identity,” she told The Chronicle in a 2020 interview. watch it every year.”

Parade organizers said Christmas senders spent countless hours on the cold waters of the river bringing smiles to young and old.

Volunteers dedicate more than 3,000 hours to trainings, meetings, outreach, logistics and actual parade time. They hold up to three meet and greet events at different locations where community members can see the boats up close, meet boat owners and learn about boat safety, according to parade organizers.

The Christmas Ship Parade will be launched from the docks in the city of St. Helens.

Parade organizers list the following outdoor viewing locations in Columbia County for the Christmas Ship Parade:

  • Columbia Courthouse – Above St. Helens City Docks
  • Columbia View Park – South of the Courthouse parking lot
  • Sand Island – Access the river from St. Helens
  • Caples House Museum – 1925 First St, Columbia City
  • Pixie Park – Columbia City

Events on the square

A holiday celebration will also take place at the Columbia County Courthouse Plaza in the St. Helens Riverfront District.

Plaza Activities

Activities on December 10 include a walk and salute with Santa Claus, photos with alpacas, and live music in Plaza Square.

Activities on December 10 will begin at 5:30 p.m. with a walk and greet Santa Claus with his elves. There will be photo ops with live holiday alpacas and festive decorations in the plaza. The Christmas Ship Parade starts from the city’s docks at 6 p.m. The full schedule includes:

  • 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Walk and wave with Santa Claus and his elves in Plaza Square.
  • 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. photos with the holiday alpacas in Plaza Square.
  • 5:45-8 p.m. Live Holiday Music with Tom Grant and Alyssa Schwary at Plaza Square.
  • 6:00 p.m. Parade of Christmas Ships at St. Helens City Docks.

This event is hosted by the City of St. Helens with tourism support from Cascadia Home Loans (Matt McHugh, NMLS#116407), Wauna Federal Credit Union, The Jane Garcia Team of Keller Williams, Big Food Cart and Brew, 503 Distilling, Best Western Oak Meadows Inn and Sand Island Campground.

More information about the parade can be found at

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