For decades, it’s been a beloved spectacle in Lake Havasu City: holiday lights adorn a procession of boats as they parade through the famous Bridgewater Channel under the London Bridge as throngs of spectators watch from both sides of the channel and atop the bridge.

But like so many other events of 2020, the coronavirus pandemic threatened to put a stop to the fun. Indeed, the London Bridge Yacht Club canceled the famous Christmas Boat Parade of Lights this month, dimming the 36-year-old tradition.

J.J. Gibbs, owner of Gibbs Propeller in Lake Havasu, didn’t care to see that happen. So he made some calls, immersed himself in the permitting process, and volunteered to organize the Christmas Boat Parade of Lights himself. “I’m basically just a citizen who stepped up and took it on,” he says. “The yacht club waited super late in the year to cancel—around the first of October.”

That obviously left him with a severely limited window of time to try to salvage the event. But not only did he manage to make this year’s parade happen, it was also a rousing success—thanks to his savvy use of social media to reach out to the Havasu boating community.

Gibbs’ goals, in addition to keeping the tradition alive through the pandemic, was to raise money for charity and to offer participants the chance to win cash prizes.

“In previous years, the event was strictly a fundraiser for the yacht club,” Gibbs says. “That’s how they raised money to fundraise for their own yacht club. And in past years, the prize money has been little to none.” Gibbs set the first prize at $1,000, with other prizes in several different categories. Meanwhile, Gibbs made donations to two charities: Milemarkers (supporting individuals with disabilities) and H.A.V.E.N. House of Lake Havasu City (which aids women and children affected by domestic violence).

Gibbs says he hopes to take the reins of the Christmas Boat Parade of Lights for the foreseeable future to beef up participation and add some new features. “The parade had been super low on participation,” he says. “In past years, it had anywhere from 35 to 50 boats. This year, we had 60 registered participants, and well over 40 were people who had never participated in the parade before.”

In addition, Gibbs says he hopes to lure more performance boats to the mix, and add a special category for Best Speedboat. “There’s a huge potential within the performance boating community to get new life into the Parade of Lights,” Gibbs says.

Check out the gallery of boats from this month’s Christmas Boat Parade of Lights, courtesy of Jillian Danielson of RiverScene Magazine (Lake Havasu City, AZ). Check out their website at https://riverscenemagazine.com.