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OXNARD : 20,000 Turn Out for Parade of Lights

Forty boats glittered and twinkled in Channel Islands Harbor for the annual Parade of Lights as people crowded on the shore, some wearing neon light rods on their heads like glowing crowns.

More than 20,000 watched the 25th anniversary of the boat parade Saturday night, while others partied at harbor hotels, condominiums and dock sites. Picnickers at Peninsula Park, the starting point of the parade, sat around warm barbecues and tables laden with food while children played on swings.

Helene Keddington said she came to the park at 6:30 a.m. to save a table for the evening festivities.

“I just left my stuff here and came back in the afternoon. Most people are pretty honest here,” she said. While waiting for the parade, her family played football and basketball.

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Keddington’s friend Diane Whiting, who works at the marina, said she had fun watching preparations for the parade. “These people get all psyched up about this, particularly as the final day comes closer,” she said.

Judges viewed the boats from a community room at Peninsula Park. One of the judges, actor Ron Masak, who plays the sheriff in the television series “Murder, She Wrote,” said he has been renting a slip at the harbor for about 12 years.

“Last year, they asked me if I wanted to be the grand marshal, but Santa Claus beat me out,” Masak said.

The lead boat, owned by Tom and Susan O’Brien, carried Santa Claus, played by Bob Carter, coordinator of the event. The boat was decorated with Christmas trees at bow and stern, and Christmas music was piped over a loudspeaker.

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Boats not only sported twinkling lights, but live bands and carolers. One boat saluted U. S. troops in Saudi Arabia with a large globe atop the pilothouse; carolers dressed in white sang at the bow of the ship.

One of the highlights for children in the crowd was the fly-by of a helicopter with Santa and his sleigh outlined in lights.

Supervisor John K. Flynn, whose district covers the marina, served as a judge for the eighth year.

“The caliber of decorations is probably the best I have ever seen. And the mood of the people is tremendous. I’m impressed with the number of kids here this year,” Flynn said.

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