Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade & The Ring of Lights
One of the Oldest Running Holiday Traditions in the Country
2021 marks the 113th year for the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade.
"Jingle on the Waves!"
Watch beautifully decorated yachts, boats, kayaks and canoes sail along the harbor in the 113th Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade. This year’s parade will be held Wednesday through Sunday, December 15-19, 2021 and is once again hosted by the Commodores Club of the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce.
Smith Group Listings
With Views of the Parade
The Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade began at the turn of the century. John Scarpa, an obscure Italian gondolier, and Joseph Beek, developer of Beacon Bay, the Balboa Ferry Line and the principal force in the early development of Balboa Island, arrived in the Newport Harbor area over 100 years ago. These two men established what was then called the Tournament of Lights, an event that would continue for the next century.
In 1907, Scarpa began the tradition of lighting boats by taking a group of visitors from Pasadena across the bay in a gondola decorated with Japanese lanterns. One year later, on July 4, 1908, the first lighted boat parade took place. Scarpa, along with his fellow small boat operators, put together a loosely organized affair consisting of nine vessels. The parade, illuminated by Japanese lanterns, was led by Scarpa’s gondola and followed by eight canoes. Thus, Scarpa has been credited with creating the first lighted boat parade.
In 1913 the parade, then called the Illuminated Water Parade, was held again. The boats were judged and prizes for the best decorated and best lighted vessels were given. Another larger parade followed in 1914 and for the Fourth of July, 1915, an even larger turnout was experienced. Historians say that as many as forty launches, canoes and rowboats participated in the celebration. The spectacular event featured a derelict boat hull that was set afire, followed by a dramatic “rescue” of passengers, a “Battle of Fireworks” between two launches and the explosion of two underwater mines. The relatively dangerous celebration was witnessed by thousands of visitors.
Unfortunately this was to be the last parade for the next five years. World War I erupted and a severe depression hit Newport Harbor. It was not until 1919 that Beek, who at the time was operating ferryboats like the Fat Ferry, came to rescue the lighted boat parade.
Most of the early participants were children who decorated floats that were towed around the harbor. The floats were constructed in Beek’s garage and many were patterned after those seen in the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade.
With the exception of several years during World War II, the Tournament of Lights was held every summer from 1919 through 1949. However, in 1949 the city fathers believed that the light parade was drawing too many visitors to the harbor and creating heavy crowding and traffic congestion. The Tournament of Lights fell out of favor.
Fortunately, back in 1946, Newport Beach City employees had outfitted a barge during the holiday season and installed a lighted Christmas tree. The barge was towed around the harbor while its passengers sang Christmas carols to residents on shore.
In later years, the Beek family came to the front again and provided one of their ferryboats for the floating Christmas tree celebration. Gradually, each year, other lighted boats fell in line behind the city employees’ floating tree. Soon the Tournament of Lights came back as a Christmas celebration.
Today the Tournament of Lights, now called the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade, features as many as 100 boats. The parade is proudly hosted by the Commodores Club of the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce and is hailed as “one of the top ten holiday happenings in the nation” by The New York Times. The parade is the premiere event of the holiday season in Southern California.
For more information about the Christmas Boat Parade, please call (949) 729-4400.
Frequently Asked Questions
How many boats are in the parade?
It varies from year to year, but as many as 100 boats of all sizes, shapes and colors make up the parade. Everything from kayaks to over 100-foot super-yachts participate each year.
Is there an official program for the parade?
Yes. Free copies are available around the harbor and at the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce offices at 4343 Von Karman Ave.,, Ste. 150-W in Newport Beach.
Who organizes the boat parade?
The parade is organized by the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce and hosted by the Commodores Club, one of its five councils. Chamber staff and volunteers put in many hours planning and executing the parade for the enjoyment of its almost one million viewers.
How long has the parade been running?
2021 marks the 113th year for the parade, making it one of the oldest running holiday traditions in the country.
Are there awards for the different boats and homes?
Yes! All registered boats and homes are eligible to compete for a number of awards from most humorous to best theme presentation, and more. All winners are invited to an annual Awards event.
How can I enter my boat?
You can register online or download the form on the ENTER page of this site. You can also call (949) 729-4400. Cost to enter is just $35. You will receive official numbers and will be eligible for the many awards that will be presented.
How do I enter my home or business into The Ring of Lights contest?
You can register online or download the form on the ENTER page of this site. You can also call (949) 729-4400. Cost to enter is just $35.
Is it mandatory for me to register my boat to be in the parade?
Yes. In order for parade control to operate smoothly, your boat needs to be registered to be part of the parade. Participants receive official numbers and order and will be eligible for the many awards that will be presented. Even if you cannot participate all nights of the parade, registration is still required.
What are the dates & times for the parade?
The 2021 parade will run Wednesday, December 15 through Sunday, December 19, 2021. The parade starts at 6:30 pm each evening off of Lido Isle, with the parade ending at approximately 9:00 pm. A complete site map with times the parade passes various points is on the VIEWING page of this web site.
Is there reserved bleacher seating?
Please visit the VIEWING page.
Can I view the parade aboard a boat?
Yes, our local boat charters offer all types of cruises during the parade, including dinner and dancing cruises, or simple viewing cruises. Be sure to book early, though, as these cruises fill up fast. Visit the Viewing page of this web site to download a list of boat charters.
Can I view the parade from a restaurant?
Yes! There are many restaurants on the parade route. However, book your reservations early, as they tend to fill up quickly. Visit the VIEWING page of this web site for more information, or call (949) 729-4400.
Does it cost money to view the parade?
No. The parade is FREE for the community and tourists to enjoy. However, a great way to see the parade is aboard a boat charter or in a waterfront restaurant. Visit the VIEWING page for referrals.
Does the weather affect the parade?
What if it rains? The parade will run rain or shine. However, in the interest of safety, upon the issuance of a small watercraft advisory notice from the Coast Guard, the parade would be cancelled for that evening. This decision will be made at 6:00 pm each evening. A message will be posted on the web site at christmasboatparade-staging.jzlsq0-liquidwebsites.com in the extremely rare case of the parade being cancelled.
Boat Parade Route
As the 113th Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade moves its way through the Newport Harbor this December, the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade Committee, with the leadership of The Commodores Club of the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce, will continue with its parade route starting and ending point at Tip of Lido Isle. The parade will begin at approximately 6:30 p.m. each night from December 15 – 19, 2021.
Parade participants will start from the east end of Lido Island following the celebrated route, with the first public viewing destination at the 10.5-acre Marina Park. The community park offers 177 parking spaces, nautical-themed playground, picnic area and sailing center, and is also the largest public viewing area along the parade route, creating an optimal location to gather and enjoy the festivities.
Residents and visitors will have optimal viewing of the beautifully decorated yachts, boats, kayaks and canoes sail in the parade from the Dine & Watch waterfront and Dine & Walk dining options within walking distance of the many public viewing spots.
Please reference the site map with times the parade passes various destination points.