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‘It’s a homegrown parade’: Boat owners look ahead to the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade

The Last Hurrah gets the finishing touches prior to the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade.
The Last Hurrah gets the finishing touches prior to the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade. The parade will begin on Dec. 14 and continue through the 18th.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)
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Little under two weeks remain until the start of the 114th Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade, but participants are already finishing up final preparations on their boats to rock around Newport Harbor in one of the biggest holiday celebrations in the city.

The parade is traditionally held in mid-December and begins on Lido Isle.

This year’s parade will begin on Dec. 14 and continue through the 18th with a variety of celebrations to mark the start of the parade that reportedly brings hundreds of people to the coastal city to see the lights on the water. At least 55 boats are registered to participate in the parade this year, according to Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Officer Steven Rosansky.

But more are expected to sign up in the coming weeks.

About 100 boats hit the waters for last year’s parade, which returned after a year’s hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nearly 100 boats participate in the opening day of the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade.
Nearly 100 boats participate in the opening day of the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade in December 2021.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Roughly a quarter of this year’s entrants are likely first-time participants, according to Rosansky, but many are returning entrants who look to step up the decorations and competition every year including parade mainstays like the Snoopy boat and the Last Hurrah.

Rosansky confirmed this year has no official theme, which leaves owners and captains to decide how they decorate their vessels.

The Last Hurrah will have a medieval theme, said Capt. Shaun Crossman, who called this year’s decoration of the boat an improvement over a similar theme used in the past.

“We wanted to try out some new ways of building things that we hadn’t done in the past this year,” said Crossman. “We’re doing a castle and a waterfall down the side of the boat. The waterfall is a new lighting effect that we’re going to hope works.”

"The Last Hurrah" gets the finishing touches.
The Last Hurrah gets the finishing touches prior to the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade. This year’s theme is a medieval castle for the vessel. The parade this year does not have an official theme.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Crossman said he and his crew finished decorating the 80-foot Ocean Alexander motor yacht this week, though there will still be a few nights spent working on programming lighting effects. Everything was built in house, which meant not much cost was accounted for in the decorating, he added.

“The boat sits here in Newport all year. It is its home port, and [the Christmas Boat Parade is] the biggest event in the harbor. [Boat owners Cathleen Vick and Rob Meadows] wanted to do it. We’ve had ... great participation with crowds,” said Crossman. “Lots of kids on shore, and it’s very important to the boss. We’re entertaining the children ... [and] had a band play, DJs, special music; we’ve done all sorts of things to keep the crowd interacting with the parade.

“[Vick and Meadows] just wanted to do something to help out the city during the holiday times. They run an electrical contracting company, so it was kind of a nice fit for them to do something with lighting on the boat.”

Scott Scofield with Morrow-Meadows Corp. puts the finishing touches on "The Last Hurrah."
Scott Scofield with Morrow-Meadows Corp. puts the finishing touches on the Last Hurrah prior to the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade, which is taking place in the next two weeks.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Snoopy boat owner Greg Killingsworth said viewers can expect much of the same fiery excitement from his boat’s display as in previous years and decreed this year’s theme to be a jungle cruise.

Killingsworth, who lives in Modjeska Canyon, said he’s been participating in the parade since 2009. His boat, Paradise Found, is known as the Snoopy boat for featuring the iconic Peanuts mascot and his doghouse every year. Killingsworth said he initially bought the inflatable doghouse to infuse some holiday spirit into his vessel in addition to a handful of other lights and decorations.

Greg Killingsworth sits in the captain's chair as he adjusts lighting on the boat.
Greg Killingsworth sits in the captain’s chair as he adjusts lighting on the popular and regular parade entry the Snoopy boat at a dock in the Dunes Marina in preparation for this year’s Newport Beach Boat Parade.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

This year, Snoopy will be featured alongside a fire-breathing lion, two giraffe sculptures and at least two exploding palm trees.

“We did ‘The Polar Express’ last year, but this year it’s a jungle cruise adventure, which is similar to what we’ve done in the past but different in that it’s more like what the ‘Jungle Cruise’ movie is about,” Killingsworth said. “We’ve got four sources of fire on the boat and everyone wears a jungle hat and ... we just go for it, either go big or go home.”

He said he tries to amp up the ante every year, though he often stays in the back because of the pyrotechnics and music.

“Everybody loves it on shore, but [everyone] in the parade is like, ‘Oh my God, he’s back at it again with the loud system,’” Killingsworth said.

Greg Killingsworth adjusts lighting on the popular, and regular parade entry.
Greg Killingsworth adjusts lighting on the popular parade entry the Snoopy boat at a dock in the Dunes Marina in preparation for this year’s Newport Beach Boat Parade.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Killingsworth said he spent around $500 on the decorations this year, the statues and pyrotechnics left over from past years. He finished decorating his boat over Thanksgiving weekend.

As for why he continued to participate, he said, “It’s homegrown. There are so many cool boats in the parade.”

He noted watching the parade is often like a “Small World” Disneyland cruise.

“I’m a newbie to some of the guys that have been around,” said Killingsworth. “But to see the amount of organization and dedication by all these people to put this on, [I’m] really [proud] to be part of a group that’s just out there to make people happy at Christmas time.”

Greg Killingsworth tests the flame boom on the popular and regular parade entry.
Greg Killingsworth tests the flame boom on the popular and regular parade entry the Snoopy boat at a dock in the Dunes Marina in preparation for this year’s Newport Beach Boat Parade.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

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