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Boat parade rides wave of success

More than 90 boats sign up this year. Boycott of the event is seen by some as mean-spirited, chairman says.

December 19, 2012|By Bradley Zint
  • A vessel dedicated to America's veterans, which included a lighted Statue of Liberty, U-turns at the Balboa Island Bridge in the 104th annual Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade on Wednesday.
A vessel dedicated to America's veterans, which… (DON LEACH, Daily…)

Protest the protest.

That's been the rallying motto as of late for the organizers of the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade amid an organized effort to boycott the 104-year-old tradition.

And, by most accounts, it's working.

More than 90 boats have signed up this year to make the nearly 14-mile run through Newport Harbor. The Balboa Bay Club and Resort was brimming with activity during the parade's opening night Wednesday, and according to one official's estimate, a "jillion" homeowners will decorate their abodes with lights.

"There's a great buzz," said David Beek, chairman of the Christmas Boat Parade, which is themed "Surf, Sand and Santa" this year. It runs through Dec. 23. "If anything, the boycott news brought attention to the event."

Beek referred to some harbor stakeholders who, in protest to a fee increase for residential docks that go over public tidelands, have grouped together to form the "Stop the Dock Tax" coalition. Their chairman, Bob McCaffrey, said Wednesday that it's hard to say if their efforts have had an effect.

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"I'm tired of the government in my pants, in my pocket, in my life," he said.

In a commentary to the Daily Pilot, McCaffrey wrote that residents like him "joyfully spend thousands of dollars to decorate our homes and boats for more than 1 million visitors to enjoy … we are not the council's piggy bank.

"Millions of dollars will be made during this year's Christmas Boat Parade, none of it by us. Our generosity allows others to profit."

After some introductory fireworks — a first this year — over the Balboa Pier, the vessels made their run, which began and ended at Bay Island. The lead boat was topped by Frosty the Snowman, and many others behind it epitomized the surf theme. Five midair reindeer appeared to "drive" one boat, while others sounded their horns for spectators.

City Councilwoman Leslie Daigle, in an email sent from aboard the lead boat, echoed sentiments of a festive parade.

"There are high levels of participation both in the parade and the many locations along the shore," she said. "The holiday spirit is alive and well in Newport Harbor!"

Over at the Balboa Bay Club, the nearly 65-year-old West Coast Highway institution whose bayside location provides a view that's near the end of the route, valets were busy, and so were members of the wait staff.

Some 800 to 900 cars got parked Wednesday, said Dieter Hissin, the resort's general manager. The hotel's restaurants had about 500 guests, he added.

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