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Lillian Boyd, Dana Point Times

Officials have announced the cancellation for the Dana Point Harbor Boat Parade of Lights amid concerns of rising COVID-19 spread—but hope to uphold other opportunities to spread holiday cheer.

The notice was issued on Thursday, Nov. 19, just a day after the Newport Beach boat parade announced its cancellation.

The Dana Point Harbor’s annual Boat Parade of Lights went “Under the Sea” on Friday Dec. 9. Photo: Kristina Pritchett

“In the interest of the health and safety of the community, Dana Point Harbor Partners have made the thoughtful and difficult decision to cancel the 46th Annual Dana Point Harbor Boat Parade of Lights,” the release sent out on behalf of Dana Point Harbor Partners stated.

This year’s theme was formerly planned to be “Holiday Fiesta,” challenging boater participants to decorate their vessels with holiday lights. In years past, competitive and festive boaters will have dancers, carolers and music to appeal to the judges.

“The boat parade truly captures the essence of Dana Point,” Bryon Ward of Dana Point Harbor Partners and President of Burnham Ward Properties has previously said.

The parade customarily recognizes winners for best overall theme, most original, lights, music and more. Following the two-weekend event, participants and organizers traditionally celebrate and announce winners at Harpoon Henry’s over brunch.

“We realize this announcement is disappointing and sad,” said Kelly Rinderknecht. “It pains us to make this decision. Unfortunately, these are unprecedented times and the deep impact from COVID19 (sic) has affected almost every large event in Southern California and around the nation, including parades and festivals.”

Rinderknecht is encouraging boaters to proceed with lighting up their vessels for the holiday season.

“There is nothing more peaceful and stunning from any viewpoint than boats lit up on the harbor water,” Rinderknecht said. “We have the best bunch of boaters in the world. We will bounce back from this with a bigger, better, brighter Dana Point Harbor Boat Parade of Lights in 2021.”

Renovations Underway for Revitalization, Including Tree Removal

Phase I of the Dana Point Harbor’s renovation began earlier this month after a more than decade-long public review and approval process culminating in an approval from the California Coastal Commission.

The County of Orange signed a lease with Dana Point Harbor Partners, on Nov. 2, 2018, to renovate the nearly 50-year-old harbor.

On Nov. 11 of this year, community members and harbor visitors took to social media in response to the removal of Eucalyptus trees along Golden Lantern at the entrance of the harbor. The trees have traditionally been adorned in holiday lights for the winter seasons, drawing in crowds of spectators.

The tree removal and trimming are part of the redevelopment plan that was approved by the County, according to a statement released by Dana Point Harbor Partners.

“The trees that were removed were part of the Coastal Development Permit for the redevelopment and were reviewed and inspected multiple times by an approved biologist and arborist,” the statement said. “As part of this review, several trees were identified as problematic. The trees did not have any active bird nests.”

As the renovation continues, harbor officials say that the existing trees and plant materials will be boxed and relocated to a temporary nursery to be repurposed in the future redeveloped Harbor. The wood from the removed trees will also be used to create furniture. The island trees, however, will remain untouched.  In addition to the new parking structure, the $350-million Harbor renovation includes updates to building facades, two new hotels, a surf museum, and all new boat slips.

Harbor Partners and Community Engagement

The Dana Point Harbor Partners (DPHP), comprises of three real estate firms, and was created to operate, manage and redevelop Dana Point Harbor in a partnership with the County of Orange. Burnham Ward Properties is responsible for stewarding the Harbor’s Commercial Core activities featuring the retail, restaurants, offices and other landside buildings. Bellwether Financial Group guides the marina operations and redevelopment including the boat slips, boater facilities, dry boat storage, day-boat parking and launch ramp areas. R.D. Olson Development leads the hotel redevelopment of the Harbor.

DPHP will soon launch a “Revitalization” section on its website,, to showcase the latest renderings, phasing maps, and frequently asked questions. Harbor officials also say there are plans to set up a community space in an area of the Harbor where the public can view plans and renderings. Community members can send comments and questions to

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