Christmas boating rises to a whole new level at the 103rd annual Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade, starting Dec. 14.
For five nights, about 100 boats, canoes, kayaks and multimillion-dollar yachts will start at Bay Island and make a tour lighting up the entire harbor for more than two hours.
The theme for this year's parade is "Feelin' Christmas-Sea in Newport Beach!" and some boat owners have spent more than $50,000 dollars on decorations.
Many of the boats will be decorated in animated Christmas scenes, accompanied by music and costumed carolers.
Richard Luehrs, president and chief executive of the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce, says, "The Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade is the oldest running Christmas boat parade in the nation."
The first Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade began at the turn of the century and consisted of one gondola and eight canoes following, all bearing lights. As the years went on, the size and scope of the parade grew, with the exception of a few years during World War I and World War II. During WWII, Luehrs explains, the last thing they wanted to do was light up the harbor and subject it to enemy attack.
Luehrs continues, "There are very few other harbors in the country that offer the opportunity for such a parade — the geographic asset that we have, along with the restaurants, yacht clubs or charters makes this a very accessible parade."
In addition to the boat competition is the "Ring of Lights" contest: bay-side homes and businesses surrounding the harbor bear decorations ranging from animated rooftop scenes to dancing Christmas trees.
This allows other area residents to participate and win prizes. The Newport parade will close with a special fireworks display visible from around the harbor.
David McIntyre, who has participated in the parade for more than two decades, explains what lures him back year after year:
"The same crew and the same five electricians have been doing this with me for about 20 years now — we always do our own decorations. It's nice to get together and actually spend some time together, arguing about what should go where and finally coming up with something wonderful in the end."
If You Go
What: 103rd annual Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade
When: 6:30-9 p.m. Dec. 14-18
Where: Newport Harbor