Locals invited to horse around at upcoming Balboa Island Parade

Parade chairman Jack Callahan rounded up the Norco Cowgirls Equestrian Rodeo Drill Team.
Parade chairman Jack Callahan rounded up the Norco Cowgirls Equestrian Rodeo Drill Team during the Balboa Island Parade last year. Callahan was named the grand marshal of the parade for this year.
(Susan Hoffman)

The Balboa Island Parade committee is inviting residents to mosey on down to the streets on June 4 to partake in the 28th annual Balboa Island Parade.

The theme for the parade this year is “Horsin’ Around Island Style,” and spectators are encouraged to grab their cowboy hats and ride down to the island clad in their aloha shirts and shorts. This continues the Wild West tradition from last year’s parade, which was themed “Island Rodeo — Boots, Chaps and Cowboy Hats.”

Jack Callahan, who has been part of the Balboa Island parade committee and the Balboa Island Improvement Assn. for years — essentially since the group started holding the parade 28 years ago — said the theme was continued into this year because of the success of the 2022 edition. He described the affair as quintessential “Americana.”

“What was amazing was that people really dressed up. There’s going to be horses, cowboys, clowns — we’ll pass out American flags, and we have quite the opening ceremony where we’ll do the flag salute and sing ‘God Bless America,’” Callahan said. “That kind of tears at the heartstrings of people. Things are pretty crazy [these days], and so the parade’s a reflection of values of America, and what America stands for and the goodness with the flag ... ‘Western’ is very America.”


Local dignitaries will also be appearing at the event, the likes of which include the entirety of the Newport Beach City Council, city harbormaster Paul Blank, Police Chief Joe Cartwright, Fire Chief Jeff Boyles, state Assemblywoman Diane Dixon, O.C. Board Supervisor Katrina Foley and KCAL news reporter Michele Gile.

Callahan was named this year’s grand marshal and will ride in a stagecoach along with his daughters and grandchildren.

“It’s a real honor,” Callahan said. “I’m very active on Balboa Island ... and they sort of call me the mayor of Balboa Island as a joke. I’m just very well known, and so for them to elect me as grand marshal is a real honor and a pleasure.”

Callahan said he remembers how the parade started as a small party to celebrate the opening of Newport Beach Fire Station No. 4.

It eventually turned into a procession that spans two blocks and 100 entries this year, in addition to marching bands from local high schools and eight military vehicles to honor veterans.

The parade is traditionally held the first Sunday of June.

“There’s always a lot of things on the Fourth of July, then you have Memorial Day and Labor Day,” said Callahan. “We didn’t want it to conflict, and we thought it was a good idea to leave it in June toward the end of the school year and the beginning of summer vacation, to really kick off summer.”

The bridge to the island will close at 10:45 a.m. for the parade, so those interested should plan to arrive early as the event steps off at 11 a.m. The Balboa Island Improvement Assn. will also host an “after party” for the parade that will feature the Fabulous Nomads at a stage in front of the fire station.