Two of Hallmark Channel’s biggest stars will be this year’s Christmas Boat Parade Grand Marshals

By Gary Sherwin – November 10, 2023

Source: Stu News Newport

Gary Sherwin

Gary Sherwin

Nine years ago, when the 106th Annual Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade was held, a few of us thought something was missing.

Not that there was anything wrong with the parade, which was going to feature its usual holiday splendor. But a few people felt it needed a little extra touch that many other parades around the country usually feature.

It was a Grand Marshal.

It almost seems impossible that a parade of this caliber can be held for more than a century without a Grand Marshal. Even much smaller parades in Orange County have them, with some even having multiples for the same parade (Say you Garden Grove Strawberry Festival).

But in 2014, that omission was corrected and Leslie Mann, a popular comic actress who has appeared in numerous films like Knocked Up and The 40-Year-Old Virgin, as well as singer Mark McGrath of Sugar Ray fame, were named double Grand Marshals. (I guess we were playing catch up).

Both had longstanding ties to Newport Beach, with Mann growing up here and McGrath still a resident. Since then, we have had several different kinds of Grand Marshals from Mickey Mouse to Angels Owner Arte Moreno.

This year as the parade continues to grow in national prominence in its 115th year, we are thrilled to have two Grand Marshals from a media company that embodies the very essence of the holiday season…the Hallmark Channel.

This cable favorite is hugely popular, especially during the holidays when their ratings soar as viewers seek out positive and uplifting tales in a world that sadly needs more of them.

Hallmark is sending two of its biggest talents to serve as Grand Marshals, Andrew Walker and Nikki Deloach, stars of many of the channel’s most popular holiday hits.

Walker has starred in Three Wise Men and a Baby, and Deloach has appeared in A Dream of Christmas, among many others. Both are thrilled to be in the parade and Deloach said that being Grand Marshal has been a bucket list item of hers for years.

“We are absolutely thrilled and deeply honored to be named Grand Marshals of the 115th Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade. Just like Hallmark, Newport Beach truly embodies the magic of the holiday season, and to be a part of this cherished tradition is a dream come true,” said Deloach.

“The city’s transformation into the most festive coastal destination is truly enchanting, and we can’t wait to share in the joy and love that this parade represents,” added Walker.

They also have robust social media followers, as does Hallmark, which helps Newport Beach tell its story to the world.

Over the last few weeks, as word of the Grand Marshals slowly started to surface through the local rumor mill, I was taken back by the loyalty and passion of Hallmark Channel fans here in Newport Beach.

Some don’t publicly admit that they watch, including many men, but apparently, they do. In a troubled world, Hallmark is an escape for many, especially during the holidays when the network produces about 40 original films a year to broadcast over a two-and-a-half-month period.

A beloved holiday Christmas network is partnering with a beloved Christmas parade. What could be more perfect?

But how did it all come about? Once again, it is another Newport Beach connection.

Credit Crown Media (parent company of Hallmark) executive Maureen Barrett, who lived in Corona del Mar more than 10 years ago, is the former vice president of marketing for Visit Newport Beach.

Barrett is a vibrant person who has a deep fondness for the city, and we have kept in touch over the years. After she left Newport Beach, she became the head of public relations for the Disney Cruise Line and Walt Disney World.

Earlier this year, we discussed the possibility of the network being a part of the parade and she was all on board. After talking with some other network executives, she greenlit the initiative and then it was on to deciding which of the network’s talent would serve as Grand Marshals.

Walker and Deloach were quickly named since they were wonderful ambassadors of the network and excited about the possibility. And, they both eagerly wanted to be involved after hearing about the parade.

As in past years, they will be honored on the Opening Night of the parade at 5 p.m. on December 13 onstage at Marina Park, where they will be given a proclamation from the newly named mayor and celebrated by other local officials. Then, they will proceed to the specially appointed Grand Marshal boat outfitted with a large LED screen so people on land can see them, and they will lead the parade around the harbor for the next two hours.

For many of us involved in the Christmas Boat Parade, we have drawn inspiration from another iconic parade just up the road a bit, the Tournament of Roses, the granddaddy of all holiday parades.

The Rose Parade is an extremely professionally run operation, complete with a staff operating out of the beautiful Tournament House in Pasadena. They have had Grand Marshals since its inception in 1890, including two former Newport Beach residents, John Wayne and Shirley Temple (who served twice as Grand Marshal, once as a child and another as an adult).

The Rose Parade’s Grand Marshals have a long list of duties, including touring floats prior to the event and having a very early breakfast on New Year’s Day with the president of that year’s parade at Tournament House.

Our Grand Marshals have it a bit easier, but standing on the bow of a boat and waving at bystanders on land is not as easy as it sounds. It can get cold out there and waving for a couple of hours can get tiring.

But for another group of Grand Marshals during the Boat Parade, this work will come somewhat easily. On Saturday night, Dec. 16, the 2024 Rose Queen Naomi Stillitano and her court will also serve as our Grand Marshals, further uniting the Christmas Boat Parade and the fabled Tournament of Roses. As you may have heard, Newport Beach will be featured in this year’s Rose Parade with plans for the longest float entry in parade history.

If you are a boater, it’s not too late to join our parade and our celebrated Grand Marshals. Just fill out the form here:

It’s all pretty terrific. Grand Marshals are great focal points for the event, and they also generate wonderful national media coverage, which is another purpose of the Boat Parade. This year, we have hit a high point, and having both the Hallmark Channel and the Rose Queen and her Court featured in our parade makes our self-proclaimed holiday postcard to the world even more joyous.

And, really, when it is all said and done, isn’t that what the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade is all about?

Gary Sherwin is President & CEO of Visit Newport Beach and Newport Beach & Company.

Source: Stu News Newport

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Durgan took over the responsibility of overseeing more than 1,200 moorings from the Sheriff Department’s Harbor Patrol Division in July, with Newport Beach hiring 13 part-time harbor workers and obtaining two additional vessels.

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Photo Credit: Nina K. Jussila/The Log