NEWPORT BEACH (CBSLA.com) — The Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade kicked off with a fireworks show Wednesday evening.
The fireworks were appropriate as in the past few weeks contentious debate over a new proposed dock tax threatened the annual event.
CBS2 and KCAL9 reporter Jeff Nguyen spoke to two siblings — 9-year-old Zoe Lavdas and her 7-year-old brother Ty — who attended the boat show for the first time in its 104-year history.
Zoe said, “I like to see all the snowman and Rudolfs and Santas. It’s just cool to see all the lights.” Ty concurred. “I like the boat parade because it’s fun. It’s cool.”
As boats decorated with light cruised the harbor – a number of homes sat in darkness, reported Nguyen.
That’s because some dock owners are protesting last week’s city council decision to increase the tax on docks and piers attached to homes along the water.
A group called “Stop the Dock Tax” boycotted this year parade in effort to get the new tax reversed.
Pete Pallette, Stop the Dock Tax member said, “We still would like to see the city reverse the tax legislation. And come back and talk to us about a more reasonable approach. One that is not punitive, that doesn’t harm the business around the harbor or the residents.”
Nguyen said it was unclear how many dock owners took part in the boycott but around the harbor a number of homes were dark. But parade organizers say 2012 has been one of their most successful years. In fact, they’re calling it a boycott of the boycott.
Parade Chairman David Beek said, “Last year we had 72 boats which we thought was pretty impressive. This year we’re pushing 90.”
One thing both sides agree on: the parade always has a big impact on the local economy. Vicki Higgins of Visit Newport Beach Inc., says “We have about a million people — maybe more — over the course of the five days.”
And while the grown ups argue over the dollars and cents around the parade and the new tax –kids like Zoe Lavdas only wanted to talk about the lights and her favorite part — the fireworks. “Because they were so colorful and they were just out of nowhere.”