About 80 boats lined up in Newport Harbor this week, decked out in lights, inflatables, a few with fire features, music and more onboard, for the 111th annual Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade.
More than a million people will watch beautifully decorated yachts, boats, kayaks and canoes sail around Newport Harbor through Sunday in the nationally-recognized annual event, hosted by the Commodores Club of the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce.
“Every year it gets more exciting because this event grows in scope and prestige,” Visit Newport Beach President and CEO Gary Sherwin said during an interview before the opening night ceremony on Wednesday.
During the event, Mayor Will O’Neill also spoke to the crowd.
“It is truly a fantastic thing,” he said. “This really is our signature event every year filled with holiday cheer and magical artistic innovation… We are so proud to show the world the abundance of holiday spirit and generosity that exists here in Newport Beach.”
The combo package of the nationally-recognized Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade and the accompanying landside Ring of Lights contest create a huge economic impact for the city, parade co-chair David Beek said.
This event alone increases the city’s economic tourism by nearly $9 million every year, O’Neill noted.
A celebrity grand marshal always helps as well, Sherwin added during a pre-event interview. The social media following helps tell the story of the parade.
On the parade’s kickoff night, star of HGTV’s “Christina on the Coast” and “Flip or Flop” Christina Anstead served in the role. She presided over the boat parade’s grand marshal boat, visible to paradegoers on the 14-mile route via the vessel’s deck-to-sail LED screen.
The parade has had some big changes over the last several years, Sherwin explained. The grand marshal opening event, for example, has been moved downstairs to the lawn so there can be more interaction with the public. It’s been 111 years, but they are always learning, he added.
“We always want to make sure, that even though we elevate the parade, it doesn’t lose the focus of being a community-based event,” Sherwin said.
It’s not the Rose Parade, which has a lot of corporate sponsored entries.
“Ours is generosity of boat owners and home owners to do all of this,” Sherwin said. “They’re putting up the money, sometimes close to six figures, to decorate their boats or homes. They don’t have Honda writing them a check to do this. The fact that we have these people that are willing to do that really makes it still really rooted in the generosity and sense of community.”
It’s a remarkable story of local people coming together to bring joy to the world, Sherwin added during the opening ceremony.
It doesn’t all just happen, it’s people willing to do this, Sherwin commented.
The event kicked off the oldest and largest boat parade in the country, Sherwin said during the event.
On Thursday, NB Chamber’s Citizen of the Year Nancy Gardner and Businessperson of the Year Jim Walker will lead the parade as grand marshals.
On Dec. 20, The Young Americans, a nonprofit group that uses music, dance, and performance to promote understanding and goodwill, will take the helm.
Hometown heroes will be honored as the grand marshals on Dec. 21. The local heroes will include Newport Beach Police Officer of the Year John Miller; Newport Beach Police Chief Jon Lewis; Firefighter of the Year Bobby Salerno; Lifeguard Supervisor of the Year Adam Yacenda; Seasonal Lifeguard of the Year Carly Christian; and Civilian of the Year Raymi Wun.
On closing night, Dec. 22, the Corona del Mar High School drum line, accompanied by Stan Frazier, the drummer and principal songwriter for the band Sugar Ray and co‐owner of Sgt. Pepperoni’s Pizza Store in Newport Beach, will serve in the position.
The parade will start and end near the tip of Lido Isle. The parade will begin at approximately 6:30 p.m. each night.
It will open with a fireworks show, sponsored by the city, launched from the Newport Pier at approximately 6:15 p.m. On the final night, another fireworks show will be launched from the Balboa Pier at approximately 9 p.m., courtesy of the city’s Chamber of Commerce.
For more information, visit christmasboatparade.com.