Parade gets last hurrah

Organizers of the 104th Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade will celebrate one last hurrah — more specifically, the Last Hurrah — at the event's annual awards dinner and auction Friday night.

Topped by a VW surf bus made of LED lights, the 84-foot yacht of that name won the 2012 Sweepstakes — as it has done four out of the five years it's appeared in the parade.

Newport resident Rob Meadows, who owns the craft with his family, said doing up the boat with structures covered in more than 50,000 LED lights that move and change color is a months-long endeavor.

"We generally meet in the summer, in June or July, and we coordinate our design for the year," he said.

After that, Meadows said helpers at the family's electrical contracting business get to work on high-tech computer-assisted drawings and programming control points for the changing light displays.

The nights of the parade, he said, the boat transforms into a floating party that's "anything but stuffy."

That's partly because they have a T-shirt gun.

"It's a very festive time," Meadows said.

Friday, parade participants and community members will honor a slate of prize winners in categories like humor and originality, and best power boats.

The winners of the home-decorating Ring of Lights competition will also be feted at the event, which takes place at the Balboa Bay Club and Resort.

Live and silent auctions will raise money for next year's parade, said Jeff Parker, vice president and director of communications for the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce, which hosts the parade and the awards dinner.

Tickets are $125 for a four-course dinner and wine — but Parker said earlier this week that seats are mostly booked. About 200 items will be up for auction.

The chamber is expecting about 300 guests.

Though a boycott of the parade and Ring of Lights by residents unhappy over dock fee increases imposed by the city threatened to darken 2012's festivities, organizers stress that, if anything, it drew more attention.

According to Visit Newport Beach, the city's marketing arm, resorts and hotels saw increases in visitors over 2011.

The Balboa Bay Club and Resort saw a 3% increase over the 2011 boat parade week, the club reported.

"It's a great time to celebrate all the hard work of the boat decorators and homeowners," Parker said. "It's just our chance to say thank you."

Twitter: @jillcowan

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