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Annual Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade a Hallmark of the Holidays

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Annual Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade a Hallmark of the Holidays

The 2022 Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade. (Courtesy of Visit Newport Beach)

Lynn Hackman

Lynn Hackman

12/12/2023

Updated: 12/26/2023

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif.—Now in its 115th year, the Newport Beach Christmas Boat parade will light up Newport Harbor beginning Wednesday, Dec. 13 through Sunday, Dec. 17, starting nightly at approximately 6:30 p.m.
Hosted by the Commodores Club of the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce, more than 100 vessels of all sizes will cruise the 14-mile harbor route brightly decorated, some incorporating pyrotechnics, synchronized light shows, moving displays, singers, dancers, and of course, Santa himself.
The parade will pass by waterfront restaurants and businesses, hotels and private residences with approximately 50 viewing locations scattered throughout the harbor route.
Steve Rosansky, president of the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce, told The Epoch Times, “This year’s parade is going to have never-before seen elements, including a state-of-the-art drone light show over the water in front of the Balboa Bay Club.”
“The parade is a great Newport Beach tradition that is only made possible by the leadership and hard work by the Chamber Commodores Club and hundreds of dedicated volunteers,” Mr. Rosansky added.
On opening night, a free, family-friendly kick-off will begin at 4:00 p.m. at Marina Park (1600 W Balboa Blvd, Newport Beach, CA 92663), the largest public viewing location on the parade route.
Festivities will include an opening ceremony, front-row parade viewing, and the third-annual Holiday Market in partnership with Creative Communal, featuring over 35 local artisans, food vendors, live music, entertainment, photo opportunities, and kids’ activities. The Holiday Market hours are 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., and the parade will sail by Marina Park at 6:45 p.m.
The 2022 Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade. (Courtesy of Blue Cotton Photography)

The 2022 Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade. (Courtesy of Blue Cotton Photography)

Grand Tradition on the Water and in the Sky

In keeping with parade tradition, opening night will include fireworks from the Balboa Pier, and each evening will feature a different grand marshal aboard the lead vessel.
Hallmark Channel holiday movie stars Andrew Walker and Nikki Deloach will serve as this year’s opening night grand marshals.
Mr. Walker is best known for his roles in Hallmark Channel classics like “Merry & Bright,” “Christmas on My Mind,” an all-new extended cut of the 2022 hit “Three Wise Men and a Baby,” and this year’s “Christmas Island.” Similarly, Ms. Deloach has starred in Hallmark movies like “Five More Minutes,” “A Dream of Christmas,” and her forthcoming “A World Record Christmas.”
“Considering Newport Beach is the most festive coastal destination in America, and Hallmark presents the ultimate Countdown to Christmas, we couldn’t think of a better partnership and duo to kick off the opening night of our cherished boat parade,” said Gary Sherwin, president and CEO of Visit Newport Beach.
Ms. Deloach and Mr. Walker will be joined by parade grand marshal alumni including actress Leslie Mann, HGTV star Christina Hall, rockstar Mark McGrath, and baseball superstar Albert Pujols, and will be visible to parade-goers via a giant deck-to-sail LED screen that will showcase clips of memorable Hallmark movie moments.
The full grand marshal lineup:
  • Wednesday, Dec. 13—Andrew Walker and Nikki Deloach: The beloved Hallmark Channel stars will preside as grand marshals on opening night.
  • Thursday, Dec. 14—Boys & Girls Club Newport Beach, an essential part of the neighborhood since 1971, serves youth allowing them to cultivate skills enabling them to reach their greatest potential.
  • Friday, Dec. 15—Celebrating our Community’s First Responders: Cheer on our local Fire and Police departments, those first-responders and lifesavers who serve our communities, as they lead the evening’s festivities.
  • Saturday, Dec. 16—2024 Rose Queen and Royal Court: Visit Newport Beach will also be participating in the world-renowned 135th Rose Parade, set to dazzle spectators on Jan. 1, 2024 in Pasadena, California.
  • Sunday, Dec. 17—Corona del Mar High School Drum Line: The CdM Drum Line is one of the premier performing groups at Corona del Mar High School. It serves as a musical ambassador, performing regularly in pep rallies as well as school and community events.
The 2022 Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade. (Courtesy of Visit Newport Beach)

The 2022 Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade. (Courtesy of Visit Newport Beach)

The 2022 Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade. (Courtesy of Visit Newport Beach)

The 2022 Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade. (Courtesy of Visit Newport Beach)

Humble Beginnings, Time-Honored Tradition

A local tradition for 115 years, the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade has become an internationally recognized event, with the New York Times calling it one of their top picks for “Cheer Around the Country.”
But the event had humble beginnings as the brainchild of John Scarpa, an Italian gondolier, and Joseph Beek, the Balboa Ferry Line proprietor and a contributor to the early development of Balboa Island.
Together, they established what they called the “Tournament of Lights.”
In 1907, Scarpa began a tradition of lighting his gondola with Japanese lanterns to take a group of visitors from Pasadena across the bay in festive style.
The next year, the first lighted boat parade took place when Scarpa, Beek and other small boat operators put together a casual holiday event.
By 1913, the parade was being called the “Illuminated Water Parade” and prizes were given to participants for best lit and decorated vessels.
Held in the summertime, by 1915 the parade had grown to include more than forty launches, canoes, and rowboats. The event always included a derelict boat hull set ablaze, a “Battle of Fireworks” between two launches, and the explosion of two underwater mines witnessed by thousands of visitors.
With the eruption of World War I, the parade was cancelled for five years, until in 1919, Mr. Beek decided to have children decorate floats that were towed around the harbor patterned after those seen in the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade.
Except for a few years during World War II, the Tournament of Lights was held every summer from 1919 through 1949.
The parade morphed into a Christmas holiday tradition when city employees outfitted a barge with a large lighted Christmas tree that was towed around the harbor while passengers sang carols to residents on shore.
In later years, the Beek family provided one of their ferryboats for the floating Christmas tree celebration, and gradually other lighted boats fell in line behind it, starting a new tradition which is today’s Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade.
For more information about the Christmas Boat Parade and a parade route map, visit www.christmasboatparade.com
The 2022 Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade. (Courtesy of Blue Cotton Photography)

The 2022 Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade. (Courtesy of Blue Cotton Photography)

Lynn Hackman

Lynn Hackman

Author

Lynn is a reporter for the Southern California edition of The Epoch Times, based in Orange County. She has enjoyed a 25-year career as a senior-level strategic public relations and contingency planning executive. An editor, blogger, and columnist, Lynn also has experience as a television and radio show producer and host. For six years, she was co-host of Sunday Brunch with Tom and Lynn on KOCI 101.5 FM. She is also active in the Newport Beach community, serving as chair emeritus of the Newport Beach City Arts Commission, among various positions with other local organizations.

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