NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. — The silver bells Les Davidson and his wife Marilyn rang last year off the back of their boat "My Way" during Newport Beach's Christmas Boat Parade are over 100 years old.

This year, Davidson will not have the opportunity to participate in the parade's 112th year because it was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns.

What You Need To Know

  • The Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade was going to celebrate its 112th year this holiday season

  • The official parade was canceled due to concerns related to COVID-19

  • An unofficial parade is set to take place December 17-19

"[I was] looking forward to this year. I just thought [it] was absolutely unbelievable to be able to do," said Davidson. "When I heard that they had canceled the parade, it broke my heart."

But the cancellation wasn't going to stop Davidson and his wife from decorating and participating on their own. They're joining an unofficial parade that's set to take place in the same mid-December time slot.

Davidson bought “My Way” a year and a half ago and took home first place in his first ever parade last year.

The Davidsons have been Newport Beach residents for almost five decades and felt it was important to keep with tradition.

“I think people are going to see this boat and many others, I’m sure, that are just as nice, and they’re going to get excited," said Davidson. "And we’re going to get hope."

This year would have been the official parade’s 112th celebration. David Beek’s family started the Balboa Island Ferry and founded the parade. Today he’s the parade co-chair. While disappointed, he understands the safety concerns the parade’s huge annual draw of over 1,000,000 visitors could present.

At the same time, he knows boaters are still planning to take part in a parade of their own.

"We call the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade 'Newport Beach’s Christmas card to the world,'" said Beek. "So it would be tragic, like I said, if nothing happened. So I’m pretty sure, and I have a pretty good idea on some communications that I had that there will be many decorated boats out during the five nights of the parade."

Newport Beach City Council Member Kevin Muldoon explained that his constituents were disappointed with the cancelation. He introduced an item at Tuesday evening’s city council meeting to support the unofficial parade with city services.

“Since the cancelation I have received about 300 emails asking me to help the city see that this has to be done this year in a safe manner, and that this is something worth fighting for,” said Muldoon.

Steve Rosansky is the president and CEO of the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce, which ultimately made the decision to cancel the parade, given that Orange County now falls in the state’s purple tier. He noted that it was the one of the hardest decisions he’s had to make, and that there’s also a huge economic impact from the parade, which has been around since 1908.

"We’ve estimated that the economic impact is anywhere from $7-10 million a year, just for the five nights of the parade, so it was disappointing," said Rosansky. "But when it comes to public health and safety, I think that trumps it all."

Davidson and his wife said they’ll be taking COVID-19 precautions during the unofficial parade. They don’t want to break any rules, addding that they just hope to spread holiday cheer and inspiration as the nation continues to battle the pandemic.

"Our little way of doing this boat parade is our way of saying to the people, 'We’re coming back. We’re fighters. And we’re going to win this thing.' And if we can bring a little cheer to a few people who see this boat, I'm all in."