By Pete Weitzner, Special to the NB Indy
Balboa Island Museum Newport Beach starts 2022 eager to build on the momentum of 2021, when it grew all facets of business, returned its popular live events, and added one very new and likely annual celebration – the “Fun Zone Festival,” which drew 300 guests to an amusement-park themed event at the Pyle family’s newly-owned venue on Balboa Peninsula.
“It was a great way to end the year,” Museum President Emeritus Shirley Pepys said, “but now, on to next year.”
Pepys hopes for a complete slate of on-site and offsite events as well as new exhibits at the 210B Marine Avenue location and satellite locales including the Newport Beach Public Library and John Wayne Airport.
Here’s what’s already on tap for 2022:
- First Sunday Supper of 2022 is February 20.
- Vietnam Veterans Day is Tuesday, March 29, “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans.” (Note: The museum, led by WW II Vet Bill Stewart, continues its project to recognize every Island vet, the registry of close to 200 can be found here on the museum’s website. https://www.balboaislandmuseum.org/veterans/)
- A new “AirCal Exhibit” is coming in March. The airline had a storied 20-year-run from 1967-1987, ultimately sold by General William Lyon and businessman George Argyros to American Airlines. AirCal introduced the first regular, nonstop flights to San Francisco International (SFO) from John Wayne Airport.
- February brings the Lunar New Year Exhibit, and an exhibit and event honoring restaurateurs Wing Lam, Cheong Lee and family (Wahoo’s, Shanghai Pine Gardens)
- Spring will bring an update to the Kids Exhibit.
Will there be a Fun Zone Festival II and a second chance to be a kid again? “That’s a possibility,” Pepys said.
Back on Stride in 2021
Last year (2021) was the third full year for the new Balboa Island Museum at its prominent, central Marine Avenue location. Despite operating under pandemic conditions, the museum managed to return to normalcy in many aspects. Some highlights:
- The May 30 Memorial Day Pinning Ceremony brought the return of live veteran’s events, so central to the museum’s mission. Pinning ceremonies give our local vets a chance to share a part of their story. In November, the museum co-sponsored the Veterans Day BBQ at Balboa Island Park. And over December 7, 2021, the nation’s youngest living WW II veteran and Island resident Bill Stewart, accompanied seven other OC vets to Hawaii, in remembrance of the 80th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
- Sunday night dinners, guest speakers and theatrical events all returned to the museum, among them the October 7, TINBOX Theatricals’ “Goblins to Gravy.” Speakers included “I grew up in Newport Before it was the OC” (NBB4OC) founder, Tom Stillwell, and pop-culture author/historian, Chris Epting, “Rock -n- Roll in the OC.”
- Museum patrons gave generously, whether pouring nearly $100,000 into memberships, and over $50,000 into a fundraising campaign. Major gifts and grants were topped by $150,000 from the Argyros Family Foundation, $20,000 from Arts Orange County for Small Business & Nonprofit COVID relief and $10,000 from the Exchange Club of Newport Harbor for an education program for elementary students in the Newport Mesa School District.
- Among the new exhibits, including the upfront Artist Gallery, were marine-artist Wyland, “Celebrating Local Artists” under a catchy umbrella-art installation, the aerial photography of Gray Malin, “Duffy Boats on the Bay,” and “Elegance Afloat: Yachts form a Bygone Era,” a joint exhibit of the Balboa Island Museum and Sherman Library
- Highlighting a bountiful year in collections were separate donations of the Mechanical Horse and Painted “Mustang,” a 1944 World War II painting, “Balboa Rendezvous,” by S.G. Vosburg, and a WW II Navy Wave Uniform that belonged to Carol Matthau, wife of Walter Matthau.
- Membership topped 500. All-time high.
In 2020, Balboa Island Museum Newport Beach was one of four museums, out of more than 40, chosen as one of Orange County’s Best, in the Los Angeles Times annual poll of readers for their favorite people, places and services in Orange County. The others: Bowers Museum, Discovery Cube Orange County, and Orange County Museum of Art.
Balboa Island Museum is located at 210B Marine Ave., Balboa Island. For more information, visit https://balboaislandmuseum.org.
Author Pete Weitzner is a longtime Orange County writer and editor, and the Co-Producer of the documentary “Golden Age of Newport Harbor.”