Over a million spectators will watch in awe the ostentatious display of privilege and color that will be featured anew at the 105th edition of a holiday tradition popularly known as the Annual Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade. Running on the theme “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree!” the annual holiday sea spectacle runs from Dec. 18 through Dec. 22 at Bay Island where it had always been more than a century ago.
As the seaside community’s present to the world, the moving “Christmas card’ hosted by the Commodore Club of the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce features almost a hundred beautifully decorated yachts, boats, kayaks that “set ablaze” the harbor dotted with multi-million dollar houses and abodes of the rich and the famous.
The two and a half hour spectacle covers approximate 14 miles and has been billed as “one of the top 10 holiday happenings in the nation” with its dazzling array of holiday lights and music permeating the air and with many of the boats decorated with animated Christmas scenes and with carolers in full costumes.
Some boats owners in the past have been reported to have spent hefty amounts decorating their multi-million dollar sea vessels for the parade that spectators view in the comfort of restaurants, yacht clubs, public beaches and in private homes which are also heavily decorated with holiday get-ups that feature rooftop animated scenes. These beautifully decorated homes, as celebrated as the main event itself, serve as backdrops for the parade where owners go all out to vie for top honors in the “Ring of Lights” contest.
Originally, the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade was known as the Tournament of Lights established by John Scarpa and Joseph Beek, an Italian gondolier and developer of Beacon Bay, respectively.
Scarpa, at the turn of the century, began the tradition of lighting boats “by taking groups of visitors from Pasadena across the bay in a gondola decorated with Japanese lanterns.” Other small boat owners, nine in all, put together a parade of these Japanese lantern-decorated vessels which he guided with his gondola. Thus the first lighted boat parade was held.
It was in 1913 that the boats were decorated and vied for prizes in what was to be called then as Illuminated Water Parade.
A war and severe depression and other fortuitous events momentarily interrupted holding of the parade which also “fell out of favor” of the city fathers because of some problems that brought with it like it was drawing too many visitors to the harbor and creating traffic congestion.
In 1946, Newport Beach city employees outfitted a barge with holiday decors and a Christmas tree and was towed around the harbor as the passengers sang Christmas songs to residents on the shores.
It was back to business for the Beek family as they came to the fore again and provided one of their ferryboats for the floating Christmas tree celebration and gradually other lighted boats fell in line again behind the employees floating tree which became known as the Tournament of Lights and later on as Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade that people look forward to as a go to event in winter. On land. Glandale has its famous Tournament of Rose in summer while affluent Newport Beach has the Tournament of Lights in winter, by the sea.
The cold season has a way warming the hearts Filipinos in America and making them more introspective and more willing to look more sensitively to the plight of their brothers and sisters on the other side of the globe. As the Philippines begins the difficult and expensive process of reconstruction and recovery after Supertyphoon Yolanda , more fortunate Filipinos find ways to pitch and dig deeper into their pocketbooks. Some forego holding company parties or whatever just to be able to take the burden off their hearts. Some convert parties into instant fundraisers in the name of charity. Whatever moves us, one thing is sure: We haven’t forgotten and has that piece of our being firmly anchored miles away driven by love. Merry Christmas to one and all and may you all be blessed by the REASON for the Season.