Newport Beach Christmas Parade launches amid boycott
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Protest the protest.
That’s the rallying cry this evening for organizers of the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade, which is facing an angry boycott movement on its 104th anniversary.
By most accounts Wednesday evening – the opening night of the five-day event -- it seemed as if the maritime spectacle was steaming ahead despite efforts to shut it down.
More than 90 boats have signed up to make the nearly 14-mile run through Newport Harbor and homeowners and businesses along the route have strung up lights and decorations, just as in past years.
“There’s a great buzz,” said David Beek, chairman of the Christmas Boat Parade. “If anything, the boycott news brought attention to the event.”
Parade organizers say the holiday regatta attracts roughly 1 million spectators each year. However, some residents began calling for a boycott this year after the city increased rental fees for residential docks that protrude over public tidelands.
Bob McCaffrey, chairman of the group Stop the Dock Tax said it was hard to say whether the group’s efforts will have an impact.
“I’m tired of the government in my pants, in my pocket, in my life,” he said.
As she sat in the lead vessel Wednesday night, Newport Beach City Councilwoman Leslie Daigle said the boycott effort did not appear to dampen enthusiasm for the event.
“There are high levels of participation both in the parade and the many locations along the shore,” Daigle said. “The holiday spirit is alive and well in Newport Harbor.”
At the Balboa Bay Club, whose bayside location provides a view that’s near the end of the route, valets were busy and wait staff were too.
About 800 to 900 cars got parked Wednesday, said Dieter Hissin, the resort’s general manager. The hotel’s restaurants had about 500 guests, he added.
Beek, a dock owner who has also been affected by the fee increase, said he felt it was wrong for protesters to politicize the event and he now thinks people viewed it as being mean-spirited.
“I always had a suspicion it was going to backfire on them,” Beek said. “You don’t muddy a traditional, 104-year-old event with politics.”
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Photo (top): Spectators watch the Newport Beach Christmas boat parade on Wednesday. Photo (bottom): A boater waits for the parade to begin as the sun sets. Credits: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times