Despite the threat of houses and boats “going dark” as a protest to the city’s recently passed residential dock fee increases, Newport Bay was lit up like a Christmas Tree on Wednesday, the first day of the Christmas Boat Parade.
“It was fantastic,” parade chairman, David Beek, said. “I always had a sneaking suspicion it was going to be successful, from all the publicity it was receiving… The boycott of the boycott mentality really took root in the community.”
The publicity actually turned out to be good thing, shining the light on the parade and firing people up to support it, Beek said.
The boycott people were hoping there would be zero boats participating in the parade, he said, so “we win.”
“The boycott turned up the heat,“ Beek said, and “fueled people to go bigger and better.”
This was, by far, the best year Beek has ever seen.
“Terrific start for the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade,” said Richard Luehrs, President/Chief Executive Officer of Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce. “Now over 90 Boats registered, this is the largest fleet in nearly ten years. Kickoff Fireworks were a big plus, great crowds on a clear night, couldn’t have been better.”
The streets were packed, parade observers said, and the boycott idea seems to have backfired.
“The anti-boycott gave tremendous support for the parade,” said one happy parade observer.
Other Bayfront residents said that the boycott organizers do not speak for them and they had no plans to go dark.
Supporters of the boycott recently spoke at the council meeting regarding the residential dock fee increases.
Kristine Thagard, who spoke on behalf of the Newport Beach Private Dock Owners Association, the group behind the “Stop the Dock Tax” campaign, at both recent council meetings on the matter, said boycotting the parade is a peaceful protest being done out of frustration.
“It’s our protest,” Thagard said about the lights out threat. “It’s all we can do to try to get this thing to slow down.”
A supporter of the campaign, Pete Pallette, said if the council decided to postpone the decision they would cancel the boycott, if not then it’s “game on.”
Observers on Balboa Island said the only dark houses were the ones for rent, under construction or had nobody home.
“There were only a few disappointed people in Newport Harbor [Wednesday night] and those were the people trying to organize the boycott,” he said.
The boat parade is too much of an important Christmas tradition to let anything like this ruin it, Beek said.
“Everybody understands their concerns,” Beek said, adding that nobody likes to see taxes, fees, or rental prices go up, but, “to attack something so far on the other end of the spectrum… To try and muddy a 104 year old tradition with politics is a ridiculous idea.”
Wednesday night, which is typically a slower night compared to the weekend, felt like a Saturday night, Beek said.
Beek is feeling positive going into the weekend and expects the word of mouth from Wednesday’s event to result in even larger crowds.
“Newport is going to be busting at the seams,” he said.