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Celebrating Balboa Island’s Centennial

June 6, 2016

Sometime in the 1860s, Balboa Island saw its beginnings as a trading and shipping post. Back in those days — when it was still known as Balisle — it wasn’t an easy place to access from inland California. It wasn’t until the early 1900s, when the Pacific Electric line Red Cars made it an easier destination for vacationers from Los Angeles, that it began to evolve into the beloved summertime hotspot we know today. The area steadily grew, eventually becoming part of the City of Newport Beach 100 years ago on June 16. Since that time, the Balboa Island Improvement Association (BIIA) has worked tirelessly on such projects as fashioning proper streets and sidewalks, lighting, water and gas, and even the famous ferry, to make it habitable year-round. (If you arrived here in the 20s, you would have had an outhouse behind your home and buried your own garbage in a yard!) In 1929, the old wooden bridge was rebuilt with concrete so it could accommodate automobiles for the first time (and 50 years later, saw the facelift we cross today — by foot, car or golf cart). Around this time, islanders also saw an influx of filmmakers who flocked here to set the stage for their movies (such as the 1922 silent film, Shadows).

Over time, this sweet summer retreat — early houses had no heat, making it undesirable in the winter months — has become “home” to an array of settlers, from young families and professionals to celebrities to retirees. Beautiful, beachside houses that once sold for a lesser amount than you’d now pay for a prime steak dinner, are worth millions of dollars today. This makes Balboa Island a highly desirable place to reside, but one for a lucky few. Adding to the draw is its tight-knit community and small-town feel — one enjoyed by residents and visitors alike. Many traditions are to be enjoyed here, from daily rituals like strolls along the charming streets and boating and fishing from the dock, to highly celebrated seasonal events like the holiday Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade. (What initially began as the “Illuminated Boat Parade,” the festivity now draws crowds from all over Orange County and beyond to see its many boats decked in lights and creative decorations.)

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“100 Years of Sun and Fun”
That’s the theme of the 23rd annual Balboa Island Parade (and after party!), that took place on June 5. Visitors and locals lined Line up along Marine Avenue to watch the colorful, Balboa-inspired characters march through the streets, celebrating the island’s past and present. Hosted by the BIIA, the event featured fabulous floats, vintage rides, festive golf carts, a marching band and more.

Island Icons
Dress in your favorite island attire on Sat., June 25 and join other partygoers at the Harborside Pavilion’s Grand Ballroom for the formal Balboa Island Centennial Celebration. Beginning at 6 p.m., community members will mingle over cocktails (a $125 ticket price includes drink tickets) followed by a buffet dinner, and live music by The Hodads. Purchase tickets here.

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Written by Ashley Breeding

Ashley Breeding is a full-time magazine editor and freelance writer. Splitting her time between Palm Springs and Orange County, Calif., she covers feature stories, fitness & outdoors, architecture & design, fashion, health & beauty.

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