Boat parade weighs anchor

The sun had long set at the bridge to Balboa Island, where 3-year-old Connor Murphy stared off into the harbor, mumbling the words to "Feliz Navidad," which he had recently learned.

Off in the distance, the Orange County Sheriff's Department boat approached, spraying water as it led the charge for the 105th annual Newport Beach Christmas boat parade.

"Ready?" asked Connor's dad, Bryan. "Santa's boat is coming!"

Boats of all sizes -- about 80 in all -- passed one after another by Murphy's perch, casting sparkling reflections onto the dark water.

A simple red and green disco light flashed on one boat. Jellyfish elaborately constructed from Christmas lights hung from another. As the parade proceeded, the image of a bright pink convertible appeared on the side of a third.

"Is that Elvis dragging behind?" asked one bystander as yet another vessel passed, pulling a figure of what appeared to be the famous rock star surfing behind it.

The event, hosted by the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce, is a storied tradition for the coastal town. It draws visitors en masse to watch the festivities, which will repeat every night through Sunday and are organized this year under the theme "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree."

Some, like the Murphys, choose to watch the parade from a public place like a bridge or the beach. Meanwhile, catered parties are thrown on some of the yachts, friends are invited to watch from a slew of harborfront homes and restaurants on the water fill up with reservations.

Whatever the vantage point, Christmas tunes can be heard blasting from various speakers loaded onto boats as they float by. More animated boat captains shout at the crowd with megaphones.

"Can I get a 'ho, ho , ho'?" yelled one.

"Ho, ho, ho!" the crowd responded dutifully.

Looking on with a smile, Bob Pace remarked, "Nothing says Christmas spirit quite like rockin' out lights on a power boat."

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