Yachts 4 fun Marina del Rey

Sat., Dec. 13, fireworks: 5.55pm, boat parade: 6:00pm

Greg and Laverne Potter dazzled parade-goers last year Photo by Pat Reynolds

Time to set sail for fun

By Pat Reynolds

Each year in the middle of December, I make way out into the main channel of the Marina del Rey harbor and photograph the Holiday Boat Parade. I choose a ride from my meager fleet (I have four now!) and ride along the periphery as all those dazzling boats decked out in colorful holiday lights pass me by to the rhythm of my camera’s snapping shutter.

This year, however, I shall be riding in style and comfort on a 72-foot yacht, sipping wine and gobbling cheese as payment for the opinions I cast. You see, I’m a judge for this year’s 52nd annual Holiday Boat Parade. I’ve officially arrived.

My elevation in status and the theme of this year’s parade — “Happy Birthday Marina del Rey, ” in honor of the impending 50th anniversary of the marina’s dedication on April 10, 1965 — has me pondering the true importance of the boat parade and what it means for our community.

As a member of the Marina del Rey Historical Society and the publisher of a local boating magazine, I’ve had ample opportunity to research the area and get a sense of what went into making it and what makes it tick.

There are many moving parts both big and small, but the parade is a unifying mainstay — and event that unites the boating community to put on a show for Greater Los Angeles, should they choose to attend.

But when it all began 50 years ago, the now-familiar boat parade was just a small-scale, close-knit assembly of friends who threw some lights on their boats to entertain themselves in a marina that was brand-new.

Willie Hjorth, president of the Marina del Rey Historical Society, remembers taking part in that first one.

“We would throw some lights on our boats, do a few decorative things and just have a good time. It was put together by boat owners for boat-owners — there weren’t
a lot of people around at that time, ” she said.

Hjorth went on to explain that once the first few boat parades happened, people from other places started to take notice and suddenly the new community was hosting an annual affair that was making waves.

Hjorth would become an organizer of the parade and see it rise to a zenith of more than 100 boats participating in the 1980s.Taking notes from the Rose Parade and the advent of less cumbersome LED bulbs, the boat parade grew into an event that enjoyed citywide recognition.

In the heart of it all, then and now, is a specially designated boat from which the grand marshal reigns. Last year the honor went to basketball legend Phil Jackson and Lakers President Jeannie Buss. This year it’s Leon “The Motorman” Kaplan, who has the longest running uninterrupted show at Talk Radio KABC, who will carry the torch.
After all that pondering I realized little has changed throughout the years, at least as far as the Holiday Boat Parade is concerned.

It’s a timeless sort of affair. Boaters continue to put together elaborate designs that, taken together, produce a unique kind of spectacle that really does bring home a sense of community.

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