• 670 Lido Park Drive, Newport Beach, CA
  • 7 Days a week 10am-6pm
(949) 868-9411

Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade

The Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade has been a yuletide favorite going back in history for Newport Beachm California. It started back in the beginning of the 20th Century. The man that developed Beacon Bay and the Balboa Ferry Line, Joseph Beek, along with John Scarpa, who was known by trade to be an Italian gondolier, had both shown up at the Newport Harbor about the same time nearly 98 years ago. They eastablished the Tournament of lights, which is what it was referred too at the time and the event was one that lasts for the next nine decades.


Scarpa started carrying visitors that came from Pasadena in groups in a gondola (that had a decor of Janpanese Lanterns) in order to cross Newport Bay. The introduction of the very first lighted up boat parade happen on July 4th, in the yeaer of 1908, only one year later. Scarpa and other operators of small boats took nine vessels and made an organized affair. Leading the parade was Scarpa in the first boat, a gondola and eight canoes was following behind, all lit up with Janpanese Lanterns. Hence, the reason the first lit up boat parde had been credited to Scarpa.


Walter Gustin made a decision to promote the Illumnated Water Parade event which featured Japanese Lanterns for the lighting, including a decor of the boats,. and the boats were judged for the best lighting as well as the one with the best decor to recieve prizes. Furthermore, there would not be anymore parades over the following five years for it had been disrupted due to World War I and the depression hitting the Newport Harbor. In 1919, Beek operated a Fat Ferry and showed up at the Lighted Boat Parade, and in 1921 resulted the establishing of  the ‘Balboa Tournament of Lights’. The event was supported by the Peninsula and the Island both. Eventually it consisted of fleets that included canoes, small sailboats, and rowboats. It wasn’t long before it became a common sight to see power cruisers, auxiliaries, and motorboats.  There were numerous power crafts beginning to use a decor and illuminated power by the year of 1929. With decorations becoming more imaginative with every tournament that followed. Governor C.C. Young made a statement in 1929, saying that, “I have never seen anything as beautiful! With freedom from commercialism being the feature that makes it so charming.”


The Tournament of Lights has been an event that happened every summer throughout the years of 1919 to 1949,with the exception of a couple of years when World War II was still going on. It was not held in 1948 and 1949 due to the authorities concern with the number of visitors coming in the harbor, which was making it overly crowed and creating too much traffic congestion. After this, the Tournament of Lights was no longer a favorite of the people. In fact, the city employees of Newport Beach put up a Christmas tree/withlights on a barge back in the year of 1946 Passengers were towed about the harbor and the passengers were singing Christmas carols out for the on shore residents.

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