The annual canoe flotilla at Cliffs of the Neuse State Park has become a cherished tradition, with more than 1,000 visitors gathering to watch the stately procession circling a tree of lights in the center of the park’s small swimming lake.
Canoes loaned by the park and small jon boats are decked out just before sunset by crews wielding boat batteries, wads of duct tape and hopelessly tangled strings of holiday lights. Some decorative themes are carefully planned in advance; others just seem to evolve from whatever decorations will fit in the back of a vehicle. The lead canoe last week was piloted by Ranger Candace Rose, with precise instructions on route and paddling speed that would’ve done the Tournament of Roses proud.
Outdoor showings of “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Frosty the Snowman,” small bonfires and hot chocolate preceded the big event. Visits with Santa – who paddled his own canoe – were welcome afterwards.
At 11 acres, it’s a very small lake but dear to the hearts of the communities around Cliffs of the Neuse. Many people watching the flotilla had learned to swim there as youngsters, or as teenagers worked there as lifeguards or at the concession stand. It just seems right that the place be properly decorated for the holidays.
Here’s a photo gallery of the event. Click any photo to begin.