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

Click here for page-turning version of the the program

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

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.

The first boat parade happened in December 1963 — about a year and four months before Los Angeles County officials finally dedicated the harbor.

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.

Holiday Boat Parade Judges

RIKKI BARKER lives aboard her 34-foot CHB trawler with husband Earnie and furry son Skeeter. She is currently the LAX Coastal Chamber of Commerce’s honorary mayor and has served on the chamber’s board of directors and executive committee. Formerly general manager and a partial owner of The Argonaut, Barker also serves on the board of the Marina del Rey Historical Society, edits the Del Rey Yacht Club’s monthly newsletter (the Signal) and runs her own custom jewelry design business.

Kelly King A 26-year resident of Marina del Rey, Kelly King is general manager and dockmaster for Villa del Mar Apartments and Marina. King, a UC Irvine alumnus, also serves as chairman of the LAX Coastal Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and co-chair of the Marina Affairs Committee. A graduate of the chamber’s Leadership Academy, he has been a member of the Marina del Rey Holiday Boat Parade Board of Directors for 12 years.

LISA THOMPSON is a regional private banker for the Marina del Rey Main Branch of Wells Fargo Bank, located on Washington Boulevard. In addition to her eight years with Wells Fargo, Thompson is a member of the LAX Coastal Chamber of Commerce, Commercial Real Estate Women L.A., the Wells Fargo Women Team Member and Young Professionals networks. She also volunteers with the L.A. Mission, Walk for Hope and Habitat for Humanity.

PAT REYNOLDS is editor and publisher of The Mariner magazine in Marina del Rey. Also a professional photographer, he founded the boating publication
12 years ago after the closure of the long-running Dinghy magazine. Last year Reynolds wrote, directed and produced the 15-minute documentary “Marina del Rey — a history,” which documents the birth of the harbor from the 1800s to its dedication in the 1960s. He has also written The Argonaut’s Nautical News column for the past nine years.

JILL PETERSON is the property manager for Pacific Ocean Management, in charge of the parcels that contain Fisherman’s Village, Pier 44, Marina Beach Shopping Center, Islands Restaurant and the Admiralty Apartments. A Utah native, Peterson moved from Chicago to Marina del Rey in 1993. “I was out here for business and loved it. Next thing I knew, I had the chance to move here,” she said.

 Jennie Nguyen, branch manager of Union Bank Marina del Rey


Behind the lights

The joys and follies of putting on the big show

By Pat Reynolds

For the thousands of spectators who will line the shores of Marina del Rey for this year’s 52nd annual Holiday Boat Parade, the night ahead — except maybe for parking — promises to be relaxing and fun.

Boats of all sizes and stripes adorned with Christmas lights and other festive décor is a truly distinct crowd-pleaser.

But what’s boat parade night like for the participants?

A lot of hard work, apparently — but also a lot of fun.

Greg and Laverne Potter have taken part in the parade aboard their 32-foot Grand Banks powerboat for each of the past eight years. They’ve won prizes in multiple categories and finished overall second a number of times. Though they enjoy the affirmation of winning, the Potters say that, in truth, the competitive element is secondary. The social reward that comes with preparing and subsequently participating in the parade is what it’s all about.

“It’s basically everything in the garage,” Greg Potter says of the decorating process, “and we just try to organize it in some fashion. It’s kind of a collective effort on our dock. A lot of our fellow boaters will come down and lend assistance and opinions and just kind of help … it’s more of a party than anything else — an excuse to get together and have a good time.”

As fun as it all is, there are full days of real work that go into finishing the boat. While the goal is for everything to be festive and beautiful, it also needs to be structurally sound and ready for the elements.

“We can have 70-degree weather or 20-mph winds,” he says. “We can have rain and sleet or a beautiful full moon. So, we have to make sure we really secure our figurines and decorations for any kind of weather.”

Once it’s all designed and tacked down, the Potters cast off and enjoy a night they look forward to every year.

Asked for a lasting memory from a past parade, Greg smiled and recounted when Laverne, dressed as Santa Claus, had a wardrobe malfunction — her pants dropped to her ankles as she was waving to the crowd.

“I have a hard time keeping my Santa pants up,” Laverne confessed. “It’s a good thing I always put long johns on underneath. I’ll be dancing away and it’ll feel a little drafty, and then someone says, ‘I think you lost something there!’”

Like the Potters, Trav Goldsworthy and his wife Patti also enjoy being part of the Holiday Boat Parade.

Trav participated back in the 1990s for a stretch and then picked it up again recently. For the past four years the Goldsworthys have been decorating their 36-foot sailboat and hosting a group of family and friends who come down from Northern California.

“It’s really a big deal for them,” says Patti. “They hear about it on the news and they really like to be part of it.”

Unlike the Potters, the Goldsworthys have been gunning for a win the past four years but have so far come up empty.

“One year we made a Santa Claus that was supposed to come down the chimney, and it was supposed to have smoke coming out of the chimney but the smoke machine didn’t work so hot,” says Trav, chuckling about a past attempt. “Then, for the animated category, we had a Santa that was supposed to move back and forth but it didn’t move that much.”

Both the Potters and the Goldsworthys laugh about these and other follies — the Potters once caught a string of lights on
a dock cleat as they were departing for the starting line — saying the overall spirit of the parade supersedes the difficulty in the amount of work they invest or any snafu they might encounter.

“We’ve never seen the parade. We’ve only seen the boat in front of us and behind us,” Greg Potter says with a smile. “It’s a blast. Once we pull out of the slip, everything that’s going to be done is completed, so then we just relax and enjoy a two-hour harbor cruise. We love the spirit and excitement.”

Happy Birthday,  Marina del Rey!

Guests, decorations, music, food, cake — when you plan a birthday party, it’s having a theme that holds everything together.

On Saturday we launch the 52nd annual Marina del Rey Holiday Boat Parade under the theme “Happy Birthday, Marina del Rey!” It’s a party celebrating the coming 50th anniversary of the April 1965 dedication of Marina del Rey, and everyone’s invited.

Fireworks kick off the party at 5:55 p.m., then dozens of boats decorated according to the birthday theme will circle the main channel of the marina from 6 to 8 p.m.

This year, the parade will be announced from Burton Chace Park by Lisa Osborne and Mickey Czegledy (Laszlo) and from Whiskey Red’s in Fisherman’s Village by Ken Lyle from Music Entertainment Services.

The boat parade is planned and implemented by volunteers who spend countless hours to bring it all together.

I’d like to send out a giant thank you to:

•    Lowell Safier, parade vice president

•    Judith Ciancimino, parade secretary

•    Riley Walters, parade treasurer

•    Our Board of Directors: Diane Barretti, Vivian Callahan,
Kelly King, Jerry Magnussen, Christine Rohde, Louis Scaduto, Phil Seelig, Bob Singer and Debbie Talbot

•    Our Volunteers: Burt Bochner, Floris Bochner, Chuck Daugherty, Wanda Davis, Carolyn Epstein, Darlene Fukuji, Michael Greenberg, Suzi Greenberg, Michael Gutierrez, Jordan Louque, Don Mantarro, Vicki Pasek, Megan Peery, Elizabeth Sampson, James Sampson, Michelle Simmons, Janice Solis, Quinten Solis, Joe Spereno, Karen Tidwell, Barbara Wasserman and Melanie Williams

•    Michael Yokotake, for taking photos of all the boats as they
make their way around the Marina

Special thanks go to you, the community, for coming out year after year to see the parade and cheer on our boaters.

And, most importantly, let’s all give a big thank you to the boaters — without you there would not be a parade!

Happy holidays,
Cindy Williams
President, Marina del Rey Holiday Boat Parade