For an astounding 111th consecutive year, the historic Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade once again looks to surpass all expectations as a can’t-miss Southern California holiday attraction if the December 18th opening night at Marina Park was any indication. The parade is scheduled to last through the 22nd.
The Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce’s Commodores Club is repeating as the host of the Newport Harbor procession, which began with a bang of celebratory fireworks when a collection of dignitaries, including the opening night Grand Marshal and HGTV star, Christina Anstead, along with President & CEO of Newport Beach and Company, Gary Sherwin, President & CEO of the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce, Steve Rosansky, parade co-chair David Beek, the city’s brand-new mayor, Will O’Neill, and the Young Americans choir saluted the tradition. The vocal ensemble, which was founded in 1962, collectively sang and took solo turns with “Joy to the World,” “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and other classic holiday tunes.
The spectacular aquatic parade will start and finish at the tip of Lido Isle with a path that glides parallel to Marina Park on the Balboa Peninsula, followed by Balboa Village, around Balboa Island, and then past Mariner’s Mile. All throughout the 14.7-mile stretch, the various illuminated sailboats, yachts, canoes, and kayaks can be observed when they begin setting sail around 6:30 pm each night. Sponsors of the five-night event include Simple Green, the EGBAR Foundation, Davey’s Locker, and Wells Fargo, among others, but the most notable partnership is with the American Childhood Cancer Organization (ACCO) which is represented by a gorgeous Christmas tree with gold ribbons (the international symbol for childhood cancer). Each ribbon not only reminds of the ongoing battle to eradicate this terrible disease, but honorably brings attention to the countless affected children, who are identified by their name, age, and home state.
Extraordinarily, a million people in all are expected to witness the glorious parade. The site that is expected to attract the most onlookers is Marina Park, the first public viewing spot along the route. The 10.5-acre park built in 2015 includes accommodating amenities for children and adults alike with a playground, picnic area, a sailing center, and of course the Lighthouse Café from which the parade can be enjoyed. There is undoubtedly a strong sense of community at Marina Park, which is why for the first time in the Christmas Boat Parade’s history, opening night was celebrated exclusively outdoors on its grounds, in the thick of things, side by side with other residents.
Gary Sherwin, the first speaker of the night, made sure to echo the parade’s all-important purpose as the longest running of its kind in the country and why it remains as viable as it did when it started over a century ago:
“It’s truly a remarkable story of our community and the individuals who have come together to give joy to the world. The Christmas Boat Parade is the embodiment of the Christmas spirit and an incredible tradition.”
In making this all come to fruition, there is much more than meets the eye in terms of preparation, which often encompasses 10 months out of the year, beginning in February, according to Steve Rosansky, also a Commodore, whose team has been instrumental in organizing much of the logistics and maintaining excellent relations with the home owners along the parade route.
David Beek, whose great-grandfather helped found the parade, reflected on the parade’s evolution. Originally conceived as an idea involving lanterns and gondolas, it is now a renowned show with top-of-the-line production values recognized far beyond just Newport Beach.
“As locals, we call this our Christmas card to the world,” Beek proudly said.
Surely, there is much to be said about the convivial atmosphere it brings to the inhabitants of Newport Beach, who annually appreciate the artful aesthetics of the decorated vessels. Standouts entries this year include a yacht outfitted with a digital coaster, a carousel, and Ferris wheel; one with a “Snoopy’s Camp Fire” theme, replete with flame bursts; a boat with a nativity scene; a boat with a live band; a canoe with Santa Claus and his sleigh of reindeers; and a cruiser with a resplendent collage of blue Smurfs.
That being said, the biggest boon from the Christmas Boat Parade — which Mayor O’Neill announced in his first official proclamation — is that this spectacle brings $9 million to Newport Beach and its surrounding areas every year. This economic impact on tourism is invaluable in not only keeping the parade going from one December to the next, but in keeping the locale as a worthwhile destination in the Southland.
For Christina Anstead of “Christina on the Coast” and “Flip or Flop,” who was anointed her opening-night Grand Marshal title by the mayor himself, the Christmas Boat Parade remains something to be experienced annually now with her own children, just as she did growing up in Orange County.
“We will forever love the Christmas Boat Parade,” Anstead declared.
Throughout the rest of the parade, ending on December 22nd, members of the Newport Beach community will be honored and there will also be performances by the Young Americans and the Corona Del Mar High School Drum Line. For more information about this and the parade route, please visit: