Newport Beach ushers in the holidays with the 113th Newport Christmas Boat Parade
Those boat bells were jingling, ring-ting-tingling too in Newport Harbor on Wednesday night, which marked the start of the 113th annual Newport Christmas Boat Parade.
The parade, held by the Commodores Club of the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce, made its return this year after the pandemic forced its cancellation last winter. A separate, unofficial boat parade was held by residents with the theme of “Let Freedom Ring.”
The parade’s theme this year is “Jingle on the Waves” and its grand marshals were the returning Orange County Olympians.
About 100 boats were out on the calm waters of Newport Harbor, each laden with twinkling lights and inflatable Santas. Some came with their own holiday soundtracks to usher in the holiday season.
Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce president and chief executive officer Steven Rosansky said more boats participated this year than in recent years, when the highest number registered for the event hit 80. Rosansky chalks the uptick this year to the public’s excitement over the parade’s return.
Families gathered on the sands of Marina Park on opening night, while others looked on from nearby restaurants. Food and hot chocolate were sold, along with light-up balloons children carried as they dashed across the sands, their parents in mad pursuit. Some viewers stood at Newport Pier, transfixed as fireworks exploded overhead to mark the start of the parade.
A set of four kayaks paddled past with lights adorning their sides and small, illuminated Christmas trees couched in the back of each vessel.
For the King family of Costa Mesa, watching the Newport Christmas Boat Parade is a longtime tradition that started when Jonathan and Natalee King were just teenagers. Their 5-year-old daughter, Iris King, has seen the parade just about every year she’s been alive, including last year’s unofficial boat parade.
“My favorite part [of the parade] now is [Iris], her joy,” said Jonathan King. Natalee King added that she was looking forward to seeing the biggest, brightest boats out on the water and the crowds of people that turned out to watch the parade Wednesday night.
“It’s the crowds and how everybody is so excited and into the spirit of the holidays. It’s like our kickstart to the holiday season,” King said.
Julia D’Souza was visiting from Washington, D.C., with her fiance Trevor Shourds for a work function when Shourds heard about the parade when he was visiting 15th St Surf + Supply.
“The [store’s staff] were like, ‘It’s been going on for like a 100 years, you need to go check it out while you’re down here.’ I was like, ‘All right,’” Shourds said.
D’Souza said she thinks having a boat parade is “awesome.” She said she could understand why people come back year after year, especially if it is a family tradition.
“Honestly, this is just a cool thing to stumble upon,” said D’Souza, who said she and Shourds have visited California before but that this is the first time they’ve been in Orange County. “It definitely adds a little cherry on top of the area. It’s just something unique to it.”
“It’s like a ritzy tradition, but it’s cool and I love it,” Shourds said.
The Sedbrooks of Costa Mesa said this is the first time that they’ve seen the parade. Cindy Sedbrook, who was attending with her daughter, Madison, said the family just moved to the city in the summer from Colorado and that they’ve been trying to take in as many sights and activities as possible since.
Sedbrook said they watched the Fourth of July parade earlier this year, but felt the Christmas boat parade was better than it because of how festive and well decorated the boats were.
Millie Buac and Carlos Cortez were visiting from Chicago with their son, who is receiving medical treatment for severe food allergies. Buac said that the family flies in every two months for treatments and typically stays around Newport Beach.
“We call it our second home now,” Cortez joked.
“This is our first year. We heard about the parade and we were like, ‘We have to go.’ It matched the dates that his treatment was, so we got lucky there,” said Cortez, who said he heard about the parade through the city’s Instagram page. “In the Midwest, we have parades, but it’s your typical parade on land.”
“[The Newport Christmas Boat Parade] is something different that we’ve never seen before, so we [were] excited,” Cortez said.
The parade on average generates an estimated $7 million to $10 million in revenue, according to studies done by the Newport Beach and Co., though Rosansky said the total impact is difficult to quantify.
“There’s not going to be a restaurant or a yacht club that isn’t sold out already. And then if you figure businesses like Davey’s Locker that takes people out on the water, they’re all sold out. It generates a lot of business for businesses not only directly on the water, but businesses off the water because people can have dinner and then walk over to watch,” Rosansky said.
“It’s a huge shot in the arm for businesses at the end of the year. If you look at businesses like Davey’s, this is a great way to fill their bank accounts again after having to keep their boats in the dock for weeks [because of the oil spill].”
The parade continues through Sunday, beginning each night at around 6:30, at the east end of Lido Island. Fireworks are expected to be launched on Sunday night to close the parade.
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