Labor Day may have come and gone, but starting Friday, Sept. 14, and continuing through Sept. 23, you can stretch your summer fun at the second annual Newport SeaFest, two weekends of continuous contests, shows and special events in and around Newport Beach. Organized by the Newport Harbor Area Chamber of Commerce and involving hundreds of volunteers, the festival was designed to boost post-season business in the area with a program of events ranging from sandcastle competitions to hot-air-balloon races. Most events are geared toward families; many are free.
"It's a chance to get the family out and have a great time while the weather is still nice," said Phil Glasgow, SeaFest chairman. Glasgow estimates that more than 75,000 sun-lovers will attend the festival's 22 events.
The Corona del Mar area is the hot spot for the opening weekend. At 9 a.m. Friday, Sept. 14, some of the country's best water polo teams will gather at Corona del Mar High School's Marian Bergeson Aquatic Center for the UCI Collegiate Water Polo Tournament. The games continue through Sunday, Sept. 16. Admission prices vary.
Gourmets of all ages will appreciate "A Taste of Newport," a three-day food fest at Fashion Island. The event, which runs Friday, Sept. 14, from 5 to 10 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 15, from noon to 10 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 16, from noon to 6 p.m., features delectables from 40 local restaurants and caterers, along with nonstop entertainment. (Average White Band headlines Friday, Billy Vera and the Beaters appear Saturday, and Latin jazz master Pancho Sanchez performs Sunday.) Nibblers pay a $5 admission fee, then purchase $1 tokens redeemable for samples from Five Feet Too, Balboa Dessert Company, Newport Landing and more. Admission (but not the token) is free Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 15 and 16, for children 12 and under.
At 7:30 a.m. on both Saturday, Sept. 15, and Sunday, Sept. 16., 30 rainbow-hued ballons will fill the skies in the Newport Hot Air Balloon Spectacular. The launching site at the corner of Coast Highway and Newport Center Drive opens at 6 a.m., giving visitors plenty of time to ogle the balloonists as they prepare their craft for the 7:30 takeoff. After the flight, balloonists will return to the launch site to mingle with the crowd until 11 a.m. Tethered balloon rides, food and entertainment will be available all morning. Admission is $4 for adults; children 12 and under are free. The USS Lynde McCormick, a 4,500-ton guided missile destroyer to be anchored off Corona del Mar, will be open for free tours from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 15 and 16 as well. Shuttles will leave the parking structure at 610 Newport Center Drive for the Orange County Harbor Department, where visitors can catch a 20-minute boat ride out to the ship. The last launch departs at 4 p.m.
On Sunday, Sept. 16, landlubbers can participate in what Glasgow calls "the granddaddy of all sandcastle contests." Held from noon to 3 p.m. near the jetty on Corona del Mar State Beach, the contest is open to all ages. Pre-registration is required to build. Just a bump, set and a spike away, a volleyball competition runs Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 15 and 16, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
On Sept. 21, the focus shifts to Newport's harbor and coastline with the arrival of the Californian, the state's official tall ship. The Californian, along with dozens of antique and contemporary wooden boats, will be moored in Newport Harbor and will be open for tours Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 22 and 23, as part of SeaFest's Wooden Boat Festival. Activities will include boat-building contests for children and adults, demonstrations and lectures. Admission is $3 to $5. Also on tap Friday, Sept. 21, is an all-ages fishing tournament and the kickoff of the Hyatt Newporter Jazz Festival, which continues through that weekend.
Families can help preserve the beauty of the Back Bay at National Estuary Day/Clean Harbor Day II, Saturday, Sept 22. Armed with trash bags and goodwill, volunteers are invited to meet at the Newport Dunes Aquatic Park at 9 a.m. and "clean their way toward the harbor," said Glasgow. Other events that day include an around-the-pier swim off Balboa Pier, a windsurfing contest at the Ameri 8can Legion Yacht Club and a surfing contest. On Sunday, Sept. 23, you can pedal up an appetite in 10- to 100-mile cycle tours of the Bike Classic, which begins and ends at the Dunes, then satisfy that growling stomach at the Pavilions Chowder Cook-Off, held from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Via Lido Plaza. Admission is free to the cook-off; Bike Classic participants must pre-register through the chamber. A Kite Festival at the Balboa Pier park provides a high-flying finale on Sunday, Sept. 23, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., featuring single- and double-line competitions for all age groups, and free kites for children 12 and under (while supplies last).
By the way, if you want to make a real summer vacation of it and stay over for the festivities, a number of local hotels are offering special SeaFest discounts. For a complete calendar of SeaFest activities and to purchase event tickets, stop by the SeaFest Information Booth in Fashion Island or call the Newport Harbor Area Chamber of Commerce.
Friday, Sept. 14, through Sunday, Sept. 23.
Locations in and around Newport Beach and Corona del Mar, including Corona del Mar High School's Bergeson Aquatic Center, Fashion Island, Corona del Mar State Beach, Hyatt Newporter, Newport Harbor, Newport Dunes Aquatic Park, Via Lido Plaza, American Legion Yacht Club and Balboa Pier.
Admission and registration fees vary; many events are free.
Where to call
Newport Harbor Area Chamber of Commerce, (714) 644-8211.