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Thanksgiving ushers in Newport Beach’s water spectacle

by: Rey Andres

TORRESIAN FUNDRAISER: Torres High School Class’74 and their friends joined in the fundraising effort for their alma mater at the Corona residence of Fred and Susan Paguio (6thfrom left, 3rd row, 5th from left, 2nd row) recently. The effort is preparatory to the grand reunion of THS alumni slated in 2014 in Manila. California residents of THS Class of ’74 had been consistent in sharing their blessings to their former schools through various means.

California eagerly awaits the Pasadena Annual Tournament of Roses that users in the New Year and draws admiration to the artistic floats that serve as monuments to the creative attributes of thousands of men and women who fashion God’s wonderful resources into works of art.

Millions remain glued to their TV sets as these awesome man-made wonders parade before their eyes. The scenario takes place on land along the concrete pavements of Colorado stretch in Glendale.

In the cold month of December and in the waters of Newport Beach City, however, a spectacle takes place that had its beginnings over a hundred years ago and has since been “considered the premier event not only for Orange and Los Angeles Counties but for Southern California.”

The Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade is a spectacle of sea crafts of various forms and sizes that infuse life to the Newport Harbor. The boats are decorated lavishly for the boat parade.  The month-long event transforms the whole Balboa landscape into a magical holiday  experience as the seaside real estates, yachts and docks are festooned with decorations of the holiday season.

Thanksgiving Day signals the hanging of holiday decorations to “illuminate the harbor with thousands of lights and hundreds of themed estates.”

Also called the Tournament Of Lights, (Pasadena’s event is known as Tournament of Roses), the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade is a holiday tradition where millions participate year after year to see hundreds of yachts, cruise ships and water crafts of all kinds join the sea parade. The parade travels miles against the background of decorated waterfront estates each night which blends with the gaiety and color of the water-borne participants. New York Times has considered the event which began at the turn of the century as “one of the top 10 holiday happenings in the nation”.

Hosted by the Commodores Beach Chamber of Commerce, the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade features over 200 boats. The annual event traces its history at the turn of the 20thCentury through the efforts of John Scarpa, an Italian gondolier and Joseph Beek, developer of a ferry line at the Balboa Island.  These pioneers established what then was called the Tournament of Lights which would continue for the next nine decades.

Scarpa, in 1907, began taking group of visitors from Pasadena across Newport Bay in a gondola “decorated with Japanese lanterns”.  He has been credited with creating the first lighted boat parade. The following year, he put together a loosely organized event consisting of nine vessels together with his fellow small boat operators.

After those years, the event evolved into a much awaited feature of the holiday season where participation to the spectacle requires months of preparations not only for pride and honor but for the cherished distinction of being part of Newport’s history.

Participating in the boat parade has reportedly cost boat owners thousands of dollars to decorate their boats to win top honors.  The yearly event also includes a contest for decorating homes and estates along the parade route in the Ring of Lights Category and the people participating in it like the guests, musicians, spectators, boat owners, families and their friends.

Parade viewers of the boat parade have these options of enjoying Holiday spectacle at various points – from the shore at one of the public access areas along the harbor, from one of the many restaurants that line the harbor, or by ship either in the parade or stationary in the bay.

For shore based options of viewing the Newport Beach Boat Parade the following are some popular spots: the non-residential harbor access points on Balboa boardwalk on the Balboa Peninsula, along East Balboa Blvd.  at the non-residential access points on Peninsula Point Beach, Pirates Cove on the southern most part of Newport Bay (Corona Del Mar), along Bayside Drive, all around Balboa Island, Little Island, Collins Island, Lido Park, Lido Isle, and at public access points of most of the number streets on Balboa Peninsula.



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