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Waterfront: Fourth of July in Newport Harbor

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Old Glory Boat Parade / Photo by Charles Weinberg

It’s a small world on our waterfront.

For those many of us who have spent their lifetimes in Newport Harbor, we share similar memories of harbor events. While we may not know everyone’s name, we know of them on sight.

A few years ago I walked into Beach Pit Barbeque in Costa Mesa, and the manager said I looked familiar. In a few moments we agreed he’d read my column and recognized me from my column photo. He mentioned his favorite pastime was paddling an outrigger canoe around Newport Harbor and had seen me working on Sun Dance. Several times since then we’ve shared greetings at the restaurant and as he paddles by Ardell Marina.

By the way, last week I ate the best St. Louis style rack of ribs I’ve ever had at Beach Pit. Many of the Newport Heights crowd shares my opinion as this quaint little establishment is usually quite busy, and the outside children’s playground gives the adults a break within sight of their kids playing.

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Old Glory Boat Parade / Photo by Charles Weinberg

The Fourth of July is one of my favorite holidays. I have a lifetime of family memories of boating by day and enjoying the evening fireworks from The Dunes, anchored in the Back Bay. (Locals abhor the bureaucratic “Upper Bay” new name!)

Does anyone remember the dunes at The Dunes before the lagoon was created and the R.V. Park and launch ramp was constructed?

From 1955 to 1959, my Dad would drive a surplus WW II four-wheel drive pick-up truck with two bench seats from the family construction yard in the back, and take a bunch of young kids up and over the dunes for the most thrilling “bumpy ride” (as we called it) a young boy could imagine. Naturally, none of these (or other) vehicles had seat belts. God Forbid!

This year The Dunes has a full day of events with meals, music, kids programs and at 9 p.m. one of the best fireworks show around. Other memories we share include made from scratch chili that our Mom would simmer from the morning until dinner time. I’m sure most of you have similar special meal traditions for your Fourth of July.

Three generations of Barretts will participate in the American Legion’s Old Glory Boat Parade, which my Dad and a few buddies started out of the only American Legion Yacht Club in the world. Yes Martha, that’s right here in river city!

The precursor to the Old glory Boat Parade was the Character Boat Parade, held annually in August in our harbor. Many times there were over 100 boats of all sizes participating, with an additional 300 to 400 spectator boats following the antics. Each year there was a different theme, although cartoonists Dick Shaw and Virgil Partch always entered the ever-sinking antique wooden boat the Michigan in full Revolutionary War naval officer uniforms.

They and their drinking buddies (including my grandfather and his friends) created the Balboa Island Sculling and Punting Society. Among other noteworthy excursions, the Society put the Michigan on a box car and rode her to Las Vegas. How many people have you heard of who skippered their boat to Las Vegas?

Another event they did: put a passenger train car on a barge and take a train to Avalon. Were these guys cool or what?

The Character Boat Parade ended a few years ago and the trophies were gathering dust, so to put them to use they created the Old Glory Boat Parade, which has been an annual event with the trophies now being re-used.

Partake or watch the parade from shore with your kids and they’ll never forget it. Starting time for the parade is 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 4. For more information please visit the American Legion Yacht Club website at alyc.com.

Happy 4th of July and God Bless America!

Sea Ya,

Skipper Steve

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