Get A Head Start 
Start early. As soon as the theme is announced it’s time to assemble your planning committee. Planning and design can be a lengthy process. The more categories you cover when designing your boat, the better chance you have of winning!

Picking A Design 
Start with something simple. Remember you only have to decorate one side of your boat. Also keep in mind the more extravagant your plans, the more crew you will need.

A design is the first step in successful decorating. Keep the design simple, concentrating on the basic theme you select. A good simple idea, effectively carried out will have the most impact on judges and spectators. Many colors of lights can be used but a single color or white is most effective. Consider the number of crew aboard and make they’re costuming an integral part of your design. Costumes can be rented, or made simply of muslin or cotton and painted. What can really work well is to have all members dressed in a single color, white or black, and use accessory items like hats, vests, large ties, belts, etc. … to match your theme.

The Execution 
Make sure your decorations do not impede your ability to see where you’re headed or to maneuver the boat. Everything must be firmly attached. Have sufficient electrical power. Have a sufficient number of fire extinguishers in proper working order in case of fire.

Gathering Materials 
Before you start building your display, try to develop a list of materials you expect to use and then buy them all in one trip

 Special Effects 
Animation can be complex and expensive or as simple as a crew member pulling a line to make something move. Remember, you will have to repeat your animation repeatedly

Adding Sound 
Music is important. Record some music that fits your theme or season.

Follow The Rules
Make sure to comply with all the rules and regulations that are spelled out by your parade organizers

Safety First 
Be alert at the helm and maintain an adequate distance between you and the boat ahead. Leave the partying and drinking until you are back in the slip.

Parade I.D. Numbers MUST be displayed on the port beam, starboard beam and stern and well-lighted for judging and emergency identification.

Your boat will be judged from the STARBOARD side only. Judges will be stationed at a number of sites around the parade route. This should encourage all entrants to stay close to the shore and provide a uniform level of entertainment for the entire parade route. Since the boat entrants pass the judging sites several times during the course of the parade, judges will award points each time, which will be averaged later.

Decorations do not have to cost a lot, but they must be fireproof or fire-retardant. Although plywood is best, heavy cardboard reinforced with wood stringers, or foam core can be used for signs, props, or backgrounds. They can be painted with non-soluble paints, glittered, or covered with decorative sheeting, aluminum foil, mylar or plastic sheets. Under good floodlights, these can look like a million. Large flat areas should have holes or flaps cut in them so they do not act as sails. sailboats can make use of their rigging to haul displays and light strings aloft. A sample materials list might read as follows:
4 2×2 for Outriggers / 5 25′ Extension Cords / 1 50′ Extension Cord / Several “T” Plugs / Rolls of Duct Tape / Rolls of Nylon Line / Spots or Floodlights, 150 watts each = 600 watts / Twinkle Lights, 50 bulbs = 408 watts / 3 Strings each 25′ red, orange, yellow, green blue = 3000w

Safety Tips 
Check your boat’s ballast weight when fully decorated and with crew aboard and balance accordingly. The use of a walkie-talkie is advisable from deck to skipper. Have one person in charge of the CO2 fire extinguisher by the power plant.

Determine how large a generator you will need. Don’t underestimate the wattage, as your lights will be dim. Rentals are available, pay in advance if necessary to reserve yours. Place on a piece of carpet and hold down with 2×4′s to help deaden the noise. Pre-measure the fuel for the generator and have 3-4 cans ready with the pre-measured amount of gas in each, so that there will be no spillage while refilling during the parade. Use 3 people to refill the generator while underway in the parade; one to hold the funnel, another to pour the pre-measured amount into the generator, and the third to carry the CO2 extinguisher.

Place your lights out from the side of the boat. 2×2′s can by used as outriggers to carry flood lights secured at one end and extended approximately 6′ from the hull. Strings of lights and other decorations can be easily and safely fastened to rails, deck fittings, etc. Make sure that none of your lights shine directly on the skipper. The glare might make it difficult to see other boats.

Special Effects 
Special effects and animation can be as varied as your budget, but you might consider the following:
Balloons / Color Wheels For Spots / Fog Machines / Bubble Machines
Ideas without motors or power requirements:
– Kid Power / – A crew member pulling a rope, block, and tackle, lifting a lever, turning a crank that moves props,etc.

Carefully pick music to fit your theme and mood. To avoid a dead lull between selections or repeats, retape the section of music many times on a cassette tape or use a continuous loop. It would be best to time your music before buying the tape. Place your speakers on the starboard side where your audience will be.