The Lighted Boat Parade – a history (fiction or truth?
Almost every seaside town that boasts a marina offers a lighted boat parade. In California these floating parades take place during the winter holiday season. In areas such as New York and/or Baltimore, a lighted boat parade is part of a summer series of events. Boats of all sizes are festively and some elaborately decorated by their owners to include lights, and sometimes moving parts. Judges view the entries, give scores in various categories, and awards are given ceremoniously at the end of the event. The boat owners celebrate at the local yacht club or watering hole.
The Christmas Lights Parade (the Tournament of Lights) tradition is reported by California’s Newport Beach yacht club to have been begun almost 100 years ago in southern California, by John Scarpa. He, an Italian gondolier, with Joseph Beek, developer of Beacon Bay, the Balboa Ferry Line and the principal force in the early development of Balboa Island, are heralded as this events founders.
“The idea for a lighted boat parade was born after Scarpa took visitors across Balboa Bay in a gondola decorated with lighted Japanese lanterns. Scarpa, along with his fellow small canoe boat owners, put together a loosely organized affair one year later consisting of nine vessels illuminated by Japanese lanterns.
With the exception of several years during World War II, the Tournament of Lights was held in Newport every summer, morfed into a winter event, growing into Newport’s premiere event drawing many visitors to the harbor. ” (reported by Newport Bay Yacht Club). This rendition of its history gives us added color.
Because of its popularity and draw, a lighted boat parade has been adopted and promoted by many cities as a premiere event to bring tourists into a community boosting overnight stays and locals.
Regardless of the Boat Parade’s history, what we know for sure is that watching these decorated boats move slowly, silently skimming the water, on a moonlit night, is a thrill. This event gives us all a good reason to be at a seaside restaurant, sipping some wine, and kicking off the holiday season.