Byline: Taylor Hill
HUNTINGTON HARBOUR — In 1962, six boats placed decorations aboard their vessels in Huntington Harbour, parading around the bay for spectators to enjoy their festive spirit, and also enjoy the decorated homes along the waterfront. It was the birth of the Huntington Harbour Philharmonic Committee (HHPC), which has now been running the Huntington Harbour Boat Parade for 50 years.
From those humble beginnings, the committee has grown to 350 volunteers, annually putting together and running the boat parade that acts as a precursor to the nonprofit music organization’s main fundraiser, the Cruise of Lights.
“The boat parade is a thank you to the harbor’s residents for decorating their homes,” said 24-year HHPC member Eva Kilgore.
Why? Because, right after the boat parade, the HHPC presents the Cruise of Lights — a 45-minute narrated boat tour where more than 15,000 guests see festively lit local homes, decorated in the holiday spirit.
“Passengers come from as far away as Australia to take the Cruise of Lights,” said Kilgore, a previous chairwoman of the event.
Each year, a decorating theme is chosen for participating boat owners and homeowners. This year’s is “Golden Memories: 50 Years of Music.”
Prizes will be awarded to boats in various categories in the boat parade — such as Most Traditional, Best of Theme and Sweepstakes — and for home decoration. Trophies are awarded, and, this year, every entrant will receive a 50th anniversary commemorative gift.
Joanne Fernbach and Margie Bogart are chairing the boat parade and are looking to make this a banner year, getting as many boats as possible participating, Fernbach said. “It’s very exciting.”
Cruise of Lights chairwomen Kim Weddon and Karen Ridout are also anticipating a record turnout for this year’s main event.
“The Cruise has become a holiday tradition,” Weddon said. “We like to think of it as the best light show on water.”
Over the last 50 years, more than $5 million has been raised to support music programs for more than 250,000 Orange County schoolchildren, from kindergarten through 12th grade, through the HHPC’s fundraising efforts.
The Huntington Harbour Boat Parade is scheduled to run Dec. 8 and 9, with the line up at 4:30 p.m. at the parade starting point (subject to change) and the parade beginning both nights at 5:15 p.m.
The Cruise of Lights narrated tours are scheduled to run at 5:30, 6:30, 7:30 and 8:30 p.m. Dec. 15-23.
Tickets for the cruise cost $17 for adults; $15 for children ages 2-12.
For boat entry information, visit hboatparade.org or call (714) 840-7542. Boat entries are due by Dec. 6.
For information on the Cruise of Lights tours, visit cruiseoflights.org or call (714) 840-7542.