Featured image: Spectators on the Flag Bridge watch paddlers float the Deschutes River during the Holiday Lights Winter Paddle Parade in Bend, Oregon (photo credit: Old Mill District)
It’s an annual celebration that gets the entire town of Bend, Oregon, in the holiday spirit. On the second Friday in December, more than 1,000 paddlers gather at Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe in the historic Old Mill District for the Holiday Lights Winter Paddle Parade. They decorate their kayaks and canoes with lights, trees, wreaths, and garlands.
Some add wrapped gifts, a giant reindeer, or a Minion or two.
The Minions hitch a ride with a kayaker at a previous Holiday Lights Winter Paddle Parade. (photo credit: Old Mill District)
Or they’ll create something else that’s unique and festive.
Many also dress in their colorful holiday costumes, sweaters, and hats.
A kayaker wearing a Santa hat waves to spectators and paddlers from the Deschutes River. (photo credit: Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe)
Then they put in behind Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe and paddle the Deschutes River upstream to the Flag Bridge and back with lights shining bright. Hundreds of spectators watching from shore and the bridge wave and cheer.
On the way back to the shop, the paddlers assemble in formation and stop so that spectators can take pictures of their beautifully decorated boats.
After the parade, Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe serves free hot beverages at the shop and kicks off its annual holiday sale.
All paddlers are welcome to join the parade. There’s no registration; simply show up at Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe on Friday, December 14, from 2 to 3:30 p.m. to decorate. The parade departs from the dock behind Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe at 4 p.m. and returns at 6 p.m.
The Old Mill District is located at 450 SW Powerhouse Drive (get directions and shop hours). Parking is free.