Where: Downtown Gig Harbor Skansie Brothers Park
When: Usually 1st Saturday of December.
Christmas is one of the best times of the year to make the most of Gig Harbor’s small-town community and traditions. Even people from outside of the community come to experience it and create family traditions. I love the way events like this bring the community together.
What You Need to Know
The Christmas Tree Lighting
Festivities are held at the waterfront Skansie Brothers Park on the first Saturday of December, from 5:00 – 7:30 PM in central Downtown Gig harbor. The event is slightly different each year but has usually included live holiday music, the Gig Harbor Downtown Waterfront Alliance serving complimentary hot cocoa at the Skansie Netshed, Harbor WildWatch hosting their touch tank experience atop the Jerisich Dock pavilion, local vendors lining Harborview Drive and Mr. and Mrs. Clause available for photos.
Please note, Harborview Drive between Pioneer and Rosedale will be closed from 4:00 PM – 8:00 PM come early to get parking or expect to walk to the waterfront. Wear comfortable shoes and dress for the weather which is usually pretty cold.
This event is a free, family-friendly community event.
This celebration is special to me because a few years ago the community rose together and fought city hall to keep the nativity that had been a part of the tree display for decades. The city had removed it after a threatened lawsuit by an atheist group in Wisconsin.
Along with individual activists, many churches from the area joined together to have a community solidarity nativity event to protest and in only 3 weeks 11,000 signatures were gathered. It took a year, but eventually, the people won. You can read a full story about it on the Kiro 7 Website.
The Lighted Boat and Car Parade
These fun events usually occur in conjunction with the Tree Lighting, but they were recently spread out on various Saturdays in December. Check the city’s Visitor page to get the exact dates for these events.
The Lighted Boat Parade is as Gig Harbor a tradition as you will find. It’s a great holiday outing for families along with the unique scene of all the boats and their lights reflecting off the dark water. I love connecting with the community and never know who I will encounter. It is hands-down one of my favorite Gig Harbor events.
In the past, the boat parade has been accompanied by a lighted car parade that features mostly vintage cars. Recently the Car parade became a separate event and travels through several neighborhoods along with the downtown center.
What You Need to Know
The Gig Harbor Lighted Boat Parade is a 50-year tradition sponsored by the Gig Harbor Yacht Club. Check the Yacht Club’s page for exact dates. The event usually starts at 5 pm with a long parade of boats circling the Harbor twice, from kayaks and canoes to 60-foot yachts and fishing vessels. The boaters go all out to decorate their vessels, and along with the many light displays you will even see blow-up figures characters like Santa and Rudolph.
Come early to find parking and grab your spot on one of the city docks. with Skansie Park being one of the best viewpoints. This is a free, family-friendly event.
The Lighted Car Parade
This event will either coincide with the boat parade or be the weekend after as they have changed it up recently. The fun thing is it goes through downtown and many other neighborhoods where people set up tailgate parties with their neighbors to sit and watch.
Recently the event has partnered with Kiwanis’ Santa’s Village, previously held at Sehmel Homestead Park. This event supports Gig Harbor’s small businesses and many community charities and non-profits.
What You Need to Know
The parade mainly features vintage cars and is just old-fashioned small-town fun. It’s free, family-friendly, and can be viewed from Skansie Park downtown or one of the various neighborhoods on the route map.
The event starts at the Kiwanis Santa Village now located in the parking lot of Uptown 4-7:30 pm and the car parade starts at 5:30. At the Santa Village you will find booths set up by local businesses and organizations featuring activities, and giveaways.
It is free to drive your car in the parade. Just sign up at the Kiwanis website. Participants are expected to arrive with decorated cars between 4 and 5 pm. The map route can be found on the Kiwanis website or their Facebook.
Meet Santa between 4 and 5 pm, and again between 6:15 and 7:30 pm after he returns from riding in the car parade.
Food, Toy, and Diaper Drive
You can participate in a drive for the needy by bringing items to the covered parking garage across from Fondi’s at Uptown. Drop off new/unwrapped toys, non-perishable food, and/or diapers between 12 and 6:30 pm that day to benefit Penninsula Fish Food Bank, Food Backpacks 4 kids, and EBC Baby Corner.