2011 Christmas on the River Celebration

No Christmas on the River event is bigger than the annual nighttime Nautical Parade. And this year will be extra special as COTR marks its 40th anniversary.

A giant birthday cake is being added to the majestic floats being featured this year.

"I know nobody actually understands it unless you've done it," said Elizabeth Ethridge, a corporate volunteer who actually helps put together the floats. "A lot more time than I ever thought it would take."

Each of the floats consist of thousands of lights which are individually screwed into place, and are then removed after the festivities. Usually the work on these floats starts in August or September. It's a lot of work, but the organizers say it's well worth it.

Days before the actual festival, longtime patrons like Royce Nelson set up shop in nearby areas for RVs to enjoy all the festival has to offer.

"I enjoy it!" said Nelson. "I enjoy the fellowship and watching the fireworks and the river parade."

Because the nautical parade is always at the mercy of Mother Nature, members of the Coast Guard, Army Corps of Engineers, Marine Police and many other agencies will be on hand to ensure that everything goes off without a hitch. With clear conditions in the forecast, organizers anticipate smooth sailing. The parade starts at 6:30 p.m.

The Annual Christmas on the River Dance starts at 9 p.m., following the nautical parade.

Click the link below to see a complete list of events for the 2011 Christmas on the River.

Leaders in Demopolis say Christmas on the River has earned the distinction of being referred to as a major economic engine.

Over the years, the festival has attracted millions of dollars to the area. At its peak, 40,000 people attended. In weeks leading up to this year's festival some hotels in Demopolis were already booked.

"A lot of our hotels have been booked now for a couple of weeks," said Jennifer Tate, director of the Demopolis Chamber of Commerce. "So, good luck to people who are coming at the last minute. Sorry. Our campgrounds are also full."

With so many different festivals now being held in other areas, Christmas on the River generally attracts around 20,000 people to Demopolis. Organizers expect that number again this year.

Because of a sluggish economy, organizers for this year's Christmas on the River is doing more with less. The estimated cost for the festival is around $90,000. Monetary and in-kind donations from corporations, local governments and individuals help to curb the costs.

One of the big parts of Christmas on the River this year, and every year, is the Annual Christmas in the Canebrake.

That event takes place Friday night. It's a tour of three historic antebellum homes in Demopolis: Bluff Hall, Lyon Hall and Gaineswood.

The homes are all decorated with 19th century style Christmas decorations.

"During the 1800s, this is the type of decorations and greenery that you would've seen in the homes," said Bobbie Mitchell, of Bluff Hall. "You wouldn't have seen the lights, the dressed up Santas and those types of things."

Christmas in the Canebrake will take place Friday from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Admission is $4.00 per home.

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