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Parade of lights

December 18, 2000

Stefanie Frith

As they sang along to "Jingle Bell Rock," spectators at the 92nd

annual Newport Harbor Christmas Boat Parade stopped in mid-sentence

Sunday night to ooh and ahh as each brightly lighted boat, kayak or yacht

passed under the Marine Avenue bridge to Balboa Island.

"It's our first year doing this and it is just amazing," said Ralane

Clarke of San Carlos, who was accompanied by her husband, Jim, their dog,

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Angela, and her mother, Lee Stein of Corona del Mar.

"My mom said this was the thing to do, and she was right. Just look at

all the pretty boats."

Over the next six nights, an estimated 1 million people are expected

to line the shores of Newport Harbor to watch the parade of 65 lighted

and decorated boats, which circle Balboa Island.

The event kicked off Sunday and will continue at 6:30 nightly through

Saturday, beginning at Collins Island.

This was the first time Art and Carol Montsinger of Huntington Beach

have seen the parade, and they said they couldn't have asked for a better

view.

The couple were in the front patio of a friend's home for a holiday

party and marveled at the number of people laughing and chatting around

them on the sidewalk.

"This is really a wonderful community event," Carol Montsinger said.

"We were walking down the sidewalk and just ran into some friends from

Whittier. It's just perfect weather and so much fun."

A few hours before the event began, parade chairman Brett Hemphill

couldn't say enough about how pleased he was with the weather.

"The waters look awesome," said Hemphill, who rode on a Harbor Patrol

boat with parade control chairman Jim Dale in case there was any boat

trouble.

"The wind is not out of control; it's pretty mellow. This is a unique

event because you can't have something like this just anywhere because of

the weather, like in Colorado. And it's a great setting with people's

homes right there."

Emily Sopp of Rolling Hills Estates, whose grandmother, Nancy Sopp,

and uncle, John Sopp, hosted the party attended by the Montsingers, said

being able to watch the parade from her family's home is a tradition that

really brings the holiday spirit.

"I am trying to convince my cousins to do the parade next year in our

little Duffy," Sopp said, pointing to a tiny boat floating just in front

of her. "It would be so funny to decorate it. We could do better than all

the Grinch themes I saw this year."

Of course, the Grinch was not around when the parade was started in

1908 by Italian gondolier John Scarpa and Joseph Beck, one of the city's

founders. That year there were eight boats illuminated by Japanese

lanterns and led by Scarpa's gondola.

Now, the event is considered one of the premier boat parades in the

nation and so popular that spectators are hard-pressed to find a place to

park to watch the vessels cruising the harbor.

"It's just so fun to bring the family and enjoy something like this,"

Rocio McKelliep of Trabuco Canyon, who came with her husband and three

sons, said as another yacht came around the corner playing "Jingle Bell

Rock." "There are just so many lights."

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