The absence of ice and snow on northern Iowa's recreational lakes permitted an unusual holiday cruise this year.
More than 250 voyagers cruised West Okoboji Lake on the Queen II excursion boat in the first-ever Christmas Eve launch.
Typically, the lake is topped with several inches of ice by now.
Cruisers each paid $50, raising $13,500 for the nonprofit Iowa Great Lakes Maritime Museum. The museum runs displays, a shopping area, Arnolds Park amusement park and the Queen II at one of Iowa's most popular tourist areas.
The Queen II began summertime cruises on West Okoboji in 1986, but has never plied the waters as late as Christmas Eve.
"We sometimes have people on the lake ice-fishing by Thanksgiving," Chamber of Commerce director Tom Kuhlman said. The latest complete ice-over of West Okoboji on record came Jan. 3, 1967.
Kuhlman and museum board member Buzz Davis made sure the Queen II was decked out. Workers strung 10,000 lights.