The inaugural Marina del Rey Halloween Boat Parade will be held on Saturday, Oct. 29 at 7 p.m. and the family-friendly event welcomes boaters and watercraft of all shapes and sizes. (Chris Mortenson/Staff Photographer)

Marina boats prep for parade with spooky and pirate-y costumes

They’ll be revving up their engines on Saturday to celebrate Halloween—their boat engines, that is. On Oct. 29 at 7 p.m., Marina del Rey will be home to the first-ever Halloween Boat Parade. Billed as a “spooktacular” event, all the Southern California boating community has been invited to decorate their boats and participate in a rollicking time that proves no one is too old to trick or treat.

It’s an event for those who just can’t get enough of holiday boat parades—like event organizer Shemp “Capt. Craig” Howard, who describes himself as a holiday boat parade maniac.

“It’s always a labor of love,” Howard said of organizing and participating in boat parades. “For me, it’s really one of the best times of the year. I love our regattas.”

He’s a regular participant in Catalina’s Buccaneer Days where everyone dresses as a pirate, bands come out to play and the boats are decorated in the theme. He has a blast with it every year and it got him thinking that there should be something fun like that on Halloween for both the kids and the adults—an opportunity for people to decorate their boats and show them off to the community. 

With the 29th falling on a Saturday this year, it felt like perfect timing to launch the event because people could do the parade over the weekend and then go trick-or-treating with their kids on Monday night. 

So, this became the year to launch what they hope will be an annual event with prizes being given out in multiple categories. They started organizing it over the summer, putting out teasers and responding to people who wanted to be sponsors.

“When you do events, you can kind of tell when it is getting some traction, when it is something people want to participate in,” Howard said. “We started rounding up boats and taking emails from people to pair them up with somebody if they don’t have a boat.”

There is a nominal $25 entry fee/donation that will go to Autism Speaks. It’s an organization that already has a longstanding association with the Marina. Howard said they wanted to continue it with this event. 

“Everybody is going to have a wonderful time at the first annual Marina del Rey Halloween Boat Parade,” Howard said. “Everybody’s very excited about it and the reaction has been very positive.”

Participants have been scouring local stores and the internet to find ways to decorate their boats. Howard said he went to Home Depot, but they were already on to Christmas with only one rack of Halloween stuff left. However, he said he found a secret weapon—there is a pop-up Halloween store above the DSW Shoe Warehouse that is chock full of possibilities.

“Everybody should channel their inner Jack Sparrow,” Howard said. “I expect to see a lot of pirates and ghosts and large pumpkins and scary things. I just picked up our 12-foot inflatable ghost.” 

The sponsors will provide gift cards as prizes and swag to give away to participants and those coming out to see the parade. 

With the proximity to Hollywood, Howard said they see a lot of really creative people getting involved, including those who work for television and movie studios. One of his friends is a set designer for movies.

“He always comes up with something outrageous and he’s got a beautiful sailboat,” Howard said. “We’ve got all the yacht clubs that come together and like to have a lot of fun, so we can always count on them. Then we have the Southern California Yachting Association. There’s a lot of people who always like to put their best foot forward, especially when there’s a little bit of a charity involved.”

The plan is for the boats to make one or two laps of the Marina, giving people on shore a good chance to see all the decorated boats. After that, who knows? Howard said they expect a fair amount of pirate boats and such renegades aren’t expected to follow a lot of rules. 

“My tagline, with apologies to Seinfeld is: it’s real and it’s spooktacular!” Howard said. “That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I’m out.”  

Halloween Boat Parade