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Dana Point Festival of Whales kicks off in grand fashion, second weekend celebrations set for March 8-10

By Andrea Papagianis

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The 42nd Dana Point Festival of Whales opened up last weekend in celebration of the annual 10,000-mile round-trip migration of California gray whales between Alaska to Mexico.


25,000 The estimated number of attendees—a record-breaking crowd—at kick-off weekend festival events, according to shuttle-bus counts done by Penny Elia, who has coordinated the festival since the early ’90s.

86 Entries in the “Magical Migration” themed parade that snaked down Pacific Coast Highway from Selva Road to Golden Lantern Saturday morning.

Long-time little league baseball announcer Gene Burrus voiced the procession that featured classic cars, large balloons, marching bands, Marines, city leaders, cheerleaders, veterans and more, emphasizing Southern Orange County’s diverse community.

6,500 Attendees at the Dana Point Chamber of Commerce’s Street Fare at La Plaza Park, highlighting the local music scene, restaurants and businesses on Saturday afternoon. The event featured over 75 area vendors, organizations and FOUR bands that nourished, informed and entertained festival-goers.

“The weather was perfect and our bands this year were great and really enticed people to stay longer to enjoy the event,” said Heather Johnston, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce. “We had a great event and hope to make it even better next year.”

3 Sand sculptures created by fine arts students from Dana Hills High School in the Whale of a Sand Sculpting, ocean-themed competition on Sunday. The group took home third-place for recreating their dolphin class logo. Second place went to one family’s rendition of The Beatles “Yellow Submarine” and first place to the Clark Family for their sculpture of the cartoon favorite Spongebob Squarepants.

10,000 Total miles travelled by California gray whales from the Arctic waters of the Chukchi and Bearing Seas to the warm lagoons of Baja, Calif. where they mate and give birth to calves. An estimated 19,000 gray whales pass by Dana Point, within miles of the shore, each year from December through April.

13 Local restaurants and organizations dished up chowder varietals in the 2nd annual Whale of a Clam Chowder Cook-off, Sunday afternoon. The Harbor Grill, a Dana Point Harbor staple for 29-years, earned the People’s Choice award for best chowder. Proceeds from the cook-off benefited the non-profit Fish for Life, providing programs to teach those with special needs fishing skills.

190 Looters in search of jewels and gems on Baby Beach at the 4th annual Monarch Beach Sunrise Rotary Club’s Diamond Dig on Sunday afternoon. One lucky mom, Lisa Marsh of Dana Point, took home the grand prize, a pair of diamond earrings, found by 3-year-old son Aaron and husband Ed.

34 Organizations at Ocean Awareness Day, presented by the Dana Point Harbor Association, which showcased environmental programs and educated attendees on issues related to the ocean.

“The community is really embracing what the event is all about,” said Kim Tilly, the spokeswoman with the Dana Point Harbor Association.

Tilly, who has been with the Harbor Association for over 15 years, said seeing the community come together to help form memories and educate others never gets old.

Mayor Steven Weinberg, who said he had never seen a community rally together and give back in such a way as Dana Point, echoed the sentiment.

The Festival of Whales is one example “of how this community functions and what makes us a five-star city, and it’s not the leaders, it’s the people,” he said.

Migration Celebration Continues

The celebration continues March 8, 9 and 10 with a performance by the Dana Point Symphony Orchestra on Friday, the 10K, 5K and 1K fun Grunion Runs and the 5th annual Mickey Muñoz Mongoose Cup—a stand-up paddleboard event—on Saturday and a Whale of a BBQ Sunday.






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