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Newport Beach and Huntington Beach host annual boat parades

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Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade starts and lights up the harbor during five-night run

The holiday boat parade — an annual display of creativity — is underway in Newport Beach, and Huntington Harbour recently wrapped its nautical event.

Over months of planning, some boat owners spend tens of thousands of dollars fitting their crafts with elaborate systems of lights. The results are displayed in the harbors of these upscale beach communities.

Newport Beach's Christmas Boat Parade began Wednesday night with the theme "Deck the Hulls With Bows of Jolly." More than 90 vessels cruised a 14.7-mile route in the 106th annual event.

Before spectators on land and in vessels, boats coasted through the Newport Harbor, beginning and ending at Bay Island. The boat parade runs nightly, from 6:30 to about 9 p.m., through Sunday.

New this year for registered participants of "Newport Beach's Christmas card to the world" were decorative burgees (flags) and plaques. The burgee design will change each year to match the year's theme, Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce officials said, adding that the annual event is a strong booster for the city's restaurant and hotel industry.

The event began Wednesday at the Balboa Bay Club, where the event's first grand marshals — actress Leslie Mann and singer Mark McGrath, both Newport Beach natives — made an appearance.

McGrath, of the band Sugar Ray, recalled seeing the lights of the parade when his family lived in the Harbor View Hills neighborhood decades ago.

This year, he brought his twins to the event. It was their first boat parade experience, McGrath said.

"It's a generational thing," he said. "The parade means so much to the people of Newport Beach. … It's just not Christmas without the Newport Beach boat parade."

The Huntington Harbour event, in its 52nd year, was held Dec. 13 and 14 with "Music in Paradise" as the theme.  The Cruise of Lights narrated boat tour of lighted homes continues through Dec. 23. Tickets are $17 adults, $10 for kids ages 2 to 12.

Bradley Zint is a reporter for Times Community News.

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