An inflatable Betty Boop will glide along North Harbor Drive overlooking San Diego Bay starting at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, December 28, 2011, in the Port of San Diego's Big Bay Balloon Parade.
The parade route is along North Harbor Drive, beginning near the County Administration Center and traveling south to Pacific Highway and North Harbor Drive, near Seaport Village.
The parade Grand Marshall is scheduled to be Vice Admiral Edward Martin, a retired naval aviator who was held captive in a North Vietnam prison camp for six years after being shot down by a surface-to-air missile in 1967. He also is slated to serve as the honorary chairman of the 34th annual Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl.
Martin was named honorary chairman because of his contributions to the Navy and society. In addition, this year marks the 100th anniversary of naval aviation and this year's parade theme is "Imagination in Flight."
The Big Bay Balloon Parade, presented by the San Diego County Credit Union, will feature the Texas Longhorn Marching Band and the California Golden Bears Marching Band, whose football teams will play Wednesday, Dec. 28, in the annual Holiday Bowl. Kickoff is at 5 p.m. at Snapdragon Stadium by Qualcomm.
The parade is one of the many events leading up to the annual bowl game.
The Port of San Diego is the title sponsor of the parade, which is famous for its giant helium balloons. The Big Bay Balloon Parade has been called "America's Largest Balloon Parade," because it has more large balloons than Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City. This year, the Macy's parade had 11 giant balloons; the Big Bay parade is scheduled to have 30.
Besides the Texas and Cal marching bands, the Big Bay Balloon Parade will include Marine Band San Diego and Navy Band Southwest, along with several high school bands from across the country.
There will be a number of specialty participants, including the Balloon Platoon, the Sumo Wrestler and the World-Famous Lawn Rangers drill teams. The Lawn Rangers are known for pushing lawnmowers and twirling brooms in the parade.
Prior to the parade, runners will race in the annual Bumble Bee Foods 5K run. The race starts at 9:45 a.m. at the corner of North Harbor Drive and Ash Street, heads south on North Harbor Drive behind the San Diego Convention Center and makes a loop through Embarcadero Marina Park North. It ends on the walkway just past G Street in Tuna Harbor Park.
About 100,000 people are expected to view the Big Bay Balloon parade. Streets around the parade route will close at 7:45 a.m. North Harbor Drive will be closed from Grape Street to Pacific Highway. Pacific Highway will be closed from Harbor Drive to Broadway. In addition, only one southbound lane on Pacific Highway, from Grape Street to Ash Street, will be open. The roads are expected to reopen around noon.
There will be free entertainment and fun from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the Amtrak Big Family Festival on Broadway Pier, 1000 North Harbor Drive. It will feature a rock-climbing wall, a field goal kick, free video games and the "Battle of the University Bands" at 11:45 a.m.
Parade parking will be limited. Parade-goers should consider carpooling or taking public transportation. The San Diego Trolley has stations with service to the Harbor Drive and Embarcadero areas. There are free and paid parking lots for trolley stops located at Fashion Valley, Old Town and America Plaza Trolley Station. To see the parade route or to find out more about the Holiday Bowl festivities, visit Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl.
For trolley information, visit San Diego Metropolitan Transit System.
Parade viewing is free. Grandstand seating is available for $20 a person. The grandstand is near the Maritime Museum of San Diego, where specialty units and bands will perform for the telecast. Tickets may be purchased by visiting Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl.
The Port of San Diego was created by the state Legislature in 1962. Since then, it has invested $1.7 billion in public improvements in its five member cities: Imperial Beach, San Diego, Coronado, Chula Vista and National City.
The Port oversees two maritime cargo terminals, two cruise ship terminals, 17 public parks, the Harbor Police Department and the leases of more than 600 tenant and sub tenant businesses around San Diego Bay.