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City, Chamber start contest to light up boats

Posted: December 9, 2011 - 12:07am

Soon the boats in harbors around the city could light up in festive fashion for the first year of what is hoped to eventually be a larger Christmas event.

City and Borough of Juneau Port Director Carl Uchytil, who started the job just a few months ago, decided to test the festive waters of Juneau’s boat owners. He’s seen various communities like Seattle who have elaborate Christmas festivities related to their harbors and is looking to bring a small portion of that here. Uchytil said in Seattle, there is a Christmas boat parade, with large tour boats also taking passengers and carolers on board for entertainment. There also are bonfires on shore and weekends of different activities. That scale of event may not make it to Juneau, but at the very least Uchytil thought people may enjoy a lighting contest.

“We can achieve a certain amount of Christmas cheer,” Uchytil said.

Uchytil had a bit of a dilemma that didn’t last long. He wanted to host the Christmas lighting contest for boaters, but the city can’t provide prizes for such an event and that’s also a rather large side project for a city department director to take on alone.

Juneau Chamber of Commerce Director Cathie Roemmich thought the idea would be fun and the Chamber is helping to get a panel of judges and a host of prizes. Uchytil said the event couldn’t happen this year without the Chamber’s help.

“Anything we can bring to the harbors that’s cheery and festive is a good thing,” Uchytil said. He isn’t sure that terribly many boat owners will participate. Uchytil said he broached the topic with the Yacht Club and members gave him a “lukewarm” reception on the idea — however the club also decided to co-sponsor the event with the city and Chamber. The Juneau Radio Center also is supporting the event.

“If we’re successful this year, next year we’ll try and expand it a little bit with additional prizes, carolers and bonfires and things like that,” he said.

The rules for this year are pretty simple. Decorate your boat. Turn your lights on from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Dec. 22, 23 and 24.

No sign ups are required for participation, however if participants are not docked in city harbors it would be a good idea to notify either the Chamber or Docks and Harbors that they are participating.

“The contest is for any boat harbor in Juneau,” Roemmich said.

She said that if someone in a private harbor goes through the trouble of decorating, the judges certainly want to include them.

Roemmich said they’re still in the process of selecting judges, but there will be 12 and they will be representatives of the business community, Docks and Harbors, City Hall staff and possibly a member of the Juneau legislative delegation.

Roemmich said the prizes have not been finalized, but currently the reward includes cash. She said they do have a few other prizes, and more details will be released closer to the contest date.

Judges will be looking for three different things: Christmas spirit, luminescence and imagination. There also will be two categories of contestants — recreational and commercial.

“Anything that we can involve the whole community in has always been important to our organization,” Roemmich said. “Our effort is toward the business community but that involves all of us. This is just a nice way to help celebrate Christmas and include our folks who spend most of their time down at our harbors. It’s a great way for other folks to get down and see our harbors.”

• Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at sarah.day@juneauempire.com.

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