Thousands turn out for Balboa Island Parade

Thousands lined Marine Avenue to attend the biggest little parade in Orange County on Sunday.

The 20th annual Balboa Island Parade, which marched along a two-and-a-half-block route, was the best attended in its history. Organizers estimated that more than 3,000 came to cheer, clap and laugh as entrants passed by dressed up for the theme of "Balboa Island – Yesterday and Today."

"The spirit here is amazing," said parade Chairman Jack Callahan. "People just love to come because you get a small town of America feel in the middle of Southern California."

The island was also visited by the Bluth's Original Frozen Banana stand from the television series "Arrested Development" with Mayor Keith Curry presenting Netflix representatives a key to the city.

"This is the home of the frozen banana and we're glad we get to share a little bit of Newport Beach with the rest of the country," Curry said.

Juan Alvarez, 24, of Costa Mesa, was among the first in line to check out the banana stand and was one of more than 500 who signed a petition requesting the stand make a stop at its fictional home on Balboa Island.

"I started watching the show when it first came out and I was really bummed when it went off the air," he said. "I pay attention to the details and [the stand] is exactly what I thought it would be."

Complete with a large blue barrel, photo of Pop-Pop and bananas hanging inside, the bright yellow stand didn't disappoint, Alvarez said.

Some say the banana stand pays homage to two of the island's retailers, Dad's Donut and Bakery Shop and Sugar 'N Spice, both of which claim to be the original purveyors of the frozen treat.

"We can't confirm which one is the original because nobody knows for sure," said Shirley Pepys, creative director of the Balboa Island Museum and Historical Society.

The stand, which was on its last leg of a promotional tour, coincided with the city's annual parade and its tradition of decorated golf carts and floats, vintage cars, local children on bikes, dressed-up dogs and Keystone Cops portrayers.

This year's parade had 119 submissions, the largest to date, and included floats featuring "The Real Housewives of Little Balboa Island" and Orange County surf band The Fabulous Nomads.

The parade, which traditionally takes place the first Sunday of June, was originally produced to celebrate the re-opening of the island's fire station but now unofficially marks the start of summer, said Jenni Samuel, Balboa Island resident and parade volunteer.

"Balboa Island has a small town community feel," she said. "Everyone takes care of each other here. It's just a very special place."

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