There was no rain, wind, fog (or, ahem, skinny dipping) on Saturday when the Huntington Harbour Committee of the Orange County Philharmonic Society staged its annual boat parade.
In past years, the elements have played havoc with Orange County’s most beautiful show on water. While Leon Statler, parade grand marshal, says that “fog is the parade’s worst enemy,” he concedes that the bevy of women who frolicked, sans swimsuits, in a waterside Jacuzzi three years ago slowed things down a tad. “I was parade captain that year and, of course, our boat had to stay nearby for a while to make sure the parade proceeded in an organized fashion,” he said with a chuckle.
But Saturday night’s 42-boat flotilla proceeded without a “bare-ometric” hitch. In fact, George Chase--a past grand marshal--called the weather “the best I’ve seen in the 12 years I’ve been involved here.”
A warm breeze flirted with the cobalt-blue waters of the harbor that night. And sea gulls dipped and swerved around masts that sported everything from party Santas to party animals.
Jane Statler chalked the smooth-sail up to prayer. “Leon’s been on his knees every night for weeks ,” she said.
The parade marked the official kickoff of the committee’s Cruise of Lights, a nine-day series of public boat tours--beginning on Thursday--through Huntington Harbour. Expected proceeds of more than $100,000 will go toward the Philharmonic Society’s music programs for youth.
“Actually, the parade is our way of saying thank you to the people of Huntington Harbour for decorating their homes,” said Barbara Snegg, Cruise of Lights chairwoman. “Without decorated homes, there’d be no cruise.” (In fact, a mini-boat parade zips around the harbor the weekend after Thanksgiving, with committee members using megaphones to encourage homeowners to decorate their waterfront houses.)
The parade has become so popular that family milestones have been arranged around it. “One year, a couple got married in a home along the water and used the parade as entertainment during the reception,” said boat parade chairwoman Helen Shepherd. “And birthday parties are popular too,” she added. “Last year, someone arranged to have a ‘Happy Birthday’ sign unfurled from a boat as it cruised by their home.”
Parties were the name of the game on Saturday night. Decorated homes and yachts were crammed with revelers, some hanging from balconies, some from decks, some elbow-to-elbow on docks, and all yelling “Merry Christmas” to the Statlers as they cruised by on Altamar, a fishing yacht owned by Lorraine and Bill McCune.
“Merry Christmas to you!” the Statlers yelled back. “Your homes look fabulous!”
Among the digs on view was a house done up like a launching pad, complete with space shuttle and dolls dressed up like little Buzz Aldrins. A Kentucky Derby-themed house sported lights spelling out “Have a Winning Season.” Another home featured a Peace on Earth sign in orange neon above a life-size Nativity scene.
The home of Judith Adams won the coveted Sweepstakes Award. In keeping with the parade theme of “Music on Parade,” Adams and her children--Julianne and Curtis--decorated their yard with cutouts of kids marching with musical instruments.
“We’re unique,” said committee president Doris Willis, enjoying the evening with her husband, Dr. Burton Willis. “The entire community comes together to stage this event.”
After cruising for four hours, the committee gathered at the Huntington Harbour Yacht Club to hand out trophies to the winning boats. Among the winners: the Sweepstakes award went to the Sunset Aquatic Yacht Club, aboard Paradise, for its portrayal of Santa making his list and checking it twice, and Mrs. Claus whipping up gingerbread cookies.
Best Animation went to Keith and Jerel Jorgensen, aboard Loan A Ranger, for their depiction of every child’s holiday fantasy--a huge electric train zipping around a track and a flying Santa with his reindeer.
The Most Beautiful award was won by Joanne and Ron Foland who smothered their Hooligan III with 3,000 red and white lights, creating huge double wings that made the vessel look like it was a cross between an angel and a butterfly.
The award for Design Excellence went to Nat Pendleton’s Nasu, which depicted a Western-style Christmas, complete with glittering green cactus.
The award for Best of Theme was won by the Newcomers Club of Huntington Harbour. Their “Circus on Parade” entry featured a calliope and juggling bears aboard the Nansea, owned by Steve and Nancy Metro.
Perhaps the most special award of all, the Best Tribute to World Peace, was won by the Boy Scouts of America aboard Moor Fun, owned by Jim Persons. Twinkling doves, international flags and the World Scout crest were featured, along with the apple-cheeked members of Boy Scout Troop 568.