Newport Beach presented its “Christmas card to the world” this week: the 106th Annual Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade, which runs through Dec. 21.
“Even if you’ve seen it 100 times, there’s still a certain magic about it,” said President and CEO of Visit Newport Beach Inc., Gary Sherwin, during the parade’s opening night festivities.
The parade, which has 90 decorated vessels cruising Newport Harbor, has been nationally recognized as one of the best holiday events and display of lights in the country.
“The Christmas Boat Parade is the single largest and most significant special event we have all year,” Sherwin said. “It gives us a chance to tell the Newport Beach story on the national scale.”
It allows the city to explain the lifestyle in a “unique and beautiful way,” he said.
“It’s a home grown event,” said Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce President Steve Rosansky.
This year’s parade, themed “Deck the Hulls with Bows of Jolly,” is hosted by the Chamber’s Commodores Club.
“Although it’s a big parade and it’s known all over the place, it’s really a small town community event,” Rosansky said.
For the first the time in the parade’s history, the parade included Grand Marshalls: Newport natives actress Leslie Mann and singer/actor Mark McGrath.
Both Mann and McGrath made an appearance at a kick-off event at the Balboa Bay Resort before boarding their boat.
The Corona del Mar High School alums spoke about growing up in Newport Beach and their memories of the Boat Parade.
“It’s a great night,” Rosansky said. “We’re ecstatic to have Leslie Mann and Mark McGrath as our inaugural grand marshals.”
The grand marshals are only in the parade on the first night.
On Saturday, also for the first time, the Tournament of Roses queen and her royal court will be on a boat.
Another new addition is the Mayor’s Boat with Newport Beach Mayor Ed Selich.
They also introduced custom burgees for participants to fly on their boats. The design on the flag will change every year, Rosansky said, which will hopefully encourage people to continue to participate and collect one each year.
This was also the first year commemorative plaques were handed out to participants.
They also added bleacher seats for spectators this year, Sherwin added.
“We’re trying to breathe new life into the parade and come up with new ideas,” Rosansky said.
Both Rosansky and Sherwin recommended spectators to arrive early and dress warm.
The route starts and ends at Bay Island. A map, which includes viewing spots, is available on the parade website.
“Stay tuned for next year,” Rosansky concluded. “It’s going to be bigger and better.”
For more information, visit christmasboatparade.com.