?Every June, friends and residents of the Island hold the much-anticipated Balboa Island Parade on Marine Avenue. It is an event that truly defines our incredible community and the individuals that call it home. For anyone who thinks that living at the beach is synonymous to snobbery or pretentiousness, this Islander challenges him or her to attend the parade next year. For four-to-six hours this past Sunday, Balboa Islanders showed why so many people continue to vacation here, move here, and visit so frequently. With apologies to Mickey Mouse and friends, for a few hours, I think this small island in Newport Harbor temporarily held the much sought after title:  Happiest place on… well you get the idea.

Below is a time blog of events from the early set-up hours to the conclusion of the parade

6:30 am: Marine Avenue is calm and quiet – no cars on the street. Empty chairs line the sidewalks from one end of the street to the other as residents, from both the night before and early in the morning, claim hold of their ideal viewing spots. Dozens of volunteers and members of the Balboa Island Improvement Association are setting up cones, portables, trash cans, stages, sound systems and more. The leaders of the Association handle all of the set-up with exceptional efficiency and professionalism. We owe them a great deal of thanks.

9:00 am: The sound stage is up, the canvas cover is rising. Residents are starting to slowly fill their chairs, mingle and are grabbing coffee and food from our delicious downtown restaurants.

10:45am: The anticipation is building significantly, 15 minutes to showtime. The sidewalks are now jammed with residents and guests – two and three deep. There is a sea of red, white, and blue.  The band is playing tunes on stage, the children are running around smiling and the weather is perfect! The energy is remarkable.

Just after 11:00am: The parade begins. The first of 99 parade entries begins the march down Marine Ave. There is no shortage of great participants, which include, but are not limited to: Pearl Harbor survivors, many other veterans, active duty military, our Mayor, Mike Henn, our City Council men and women, local school bands and dance groups, hundreds of Islanders and their children – many performing impressive skills such as twirling white chairs, batons, and much more.  There was also an array of vintage cars, classic fire trucks, police cars and more four-legged “best friends” together on a single street than you’ve probably ever seen.  All of our Island dogs were terrific!

About 90 minutes later: The last group comes through. The 2011 Parade comes to a close. Residents begin to fold their chairs, say their goodbyes to neighbors and friends as many begin the walk back home. The Island energy is still vibrant as some of the crowd is still walking around, going in and out of shops, grabbing lunch, and taking in the perfect day. The band plays on for a bit longer… a few more songs before calling it an afternoon.

2:00pm: Most of the clean-up and take down of signs, cones, stages, etc. is complete. The volunteers, city workers, and BIIA crew wrap up their incredible work. The event was a complete success. The atmosphere was patriotic, passionate, and personal. Mickey and friends may get their “Happiest place” title back for now, but regardless, today the Island and its residents showed why it is an amazing place to call home.  Let the 2012 Parade planning begin…

Were you at this year’s parade or have you attended in previous years? Tell us about your experience below.