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Newport Beach shows off four former Rose Queens® on award-winning parade float and gets credit for a fifth

You’ve arrived in 2024! Happy New Year! And welcome to our new look for Stu News Newport (more on that in a minute).

As many of you do, I got up early yesterday morning to watch the Rose Parade® from Pasadena…okay, 8 a.m., but that’s early for me.

Being honest, I could have done without the singing performances to start the festivities off…but then came the flyover. Awesome!

What’s more impressive than one of our B-2 Stealth Bombers flying over the parade route seemingly down Colorado Boulevard? The B-2 was straight out of Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, but with a top speed of approximately 630 mph, it had to seem like just a hop, skip and a jump away.

Still, that impressive flyover showing honestly gives me that “proud to be an American” feeling.

That, however, was not why I was up early. The truth is, I was particularly excited because up near the front of the parade, in all its splendor, was the Visit Newport Beach float entry. And, boy, upon its arrival it was spectacular! At a parade record 165 ft. long and a five-part float entry, it was actually a mini takeoff of our own Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade.

The float was comprised of re-creations of iconic Newport Beach images such as the Balboa Pavilion, the Fun Zone, the Marina Park Lighthouse, notable Boat Parade balloon decorations from the several award-winning boats and a number of images that just said, “Newport Beach.”

Here’s what else I noticed – up front, above the dolphins and other sea creatures making up float #1, was Visit Newport Beach President & CEO Gary Sherwin waving to the crowd. His ear-to-ear smile said it all.

Back just a bit on float #3, situated behind a beautiful floral crown and sitting up high on a throne, was a group of four former Rose Queens®, all residents of Newport Beach. They were Nancy Thorne Skinner (Rose Queen® from 1952), Ann Mossberg Hall (1957), Robin Carr Sanders (1975) and Anne Martin Wortmann (1976).

Okay, and as a proud dad, joining them in that group was my daughter Ashley Johnson, the Sr. VP and Chief Marketing Officer for Visit Newport Beach.

Now, let’s be clear about a few things here: first, Ashley wasn’t there to fool anyone…no, she was never a Rose Queen®. Sure, she was blessed with my great looks (ha-ha), but she’s going to obviously need more than that.

Even Al Roker mistakenly included her when referring to the Newport Beach group of ladies as the “five former Rose Queens®,” when discussing the float on NBC’s national broadcast.

Still, Ashley was actually there as a true support person for those “real” Rose Queens®, at their ready, in case they needed anything along the route, and just to make certain they were all comfortable and okay.

And when you assume the ages of Skinner and Hall, both well into their 80s, that’s probably a good thing, “just in case” as they say.

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Submitted photo

Ashley Johnson (second from right) is captured on TV making her “Rose Queen® debut” while joining Nancy Thorne Skinner (back left), Robin Carr Sanders, Anne Wortmann and Ann Hall (right)

According to Sherwin shortly after the parade’s conclusion, “they did great,” when he was asked about how they were doing following the long, arduous morning festivities.

The overall Visit Newport Beach entry, titled, “Jingle on the Waves,” received the Rose Parade’s Extraordinaire Trophy as the “most extraordinary float.”

Frankly, it would be hard to argue it wasn’t.

And Newport Beach’s Debbie Allen Moore lobbed in with this note to Stu News shortly after the parade concluded: “I think we should all give kudos to Gary Sherwin and his team at Visit Newport Beach for making us very proud of the award-winning spectacular float, (they) sent to the 2024 Rose Parade®.”

And she’s right.

Imagine, too, Sherwin’s job is to get eyeballs on Newport Beach as a potential travel destination. He needs to create buzz.

So think about this: Pasadena Police estimated a crowd of some 500,000 people lining Colorado Boulevard; KTLA said “up to 700,000”; add in the national TV audience; news clips on virtually every news broadcast over the next several days, everywhere; all the pre-event newspaper stories nationally, followed by the post-event stories that will run for days and days; and add to that all of the shares on social media posts and the numbers exponentially seem unfathomable.

And Sherwin told me it goes even further. Every part of what his team did was promoting Newport Beach as a destination.

Taking it a step further, three “customers” of Newport Beach actually won opportunities to be a part of the parade by joining Gary on the front float. The winners were three of the largest meeting planners worldwide that entered a drawing for the opportunity.

Each of them potentially translates into huge business opportunities for Newport Beach’s future. It’s what VNB is charged with doing and, quite frankly, they do it as well or better than most.

I would say, overall it was an “extraordinaire” effort!

• • •

Up front of this column I mentioned the redesign. You’ve had to have noticed if you’re a regular reader of Stu News. It’s certainly different. Bigger fonts to make reading easier; no right “gutter” to clean up the overall look; a better presentation on phones and stories at the top to entice you into each edition.

Sure, we’re proud of it…but I’m also interested in what you, our readers, have to say. Let me know, good or bad, at

Thanks also to our advertisers for joining us in this effort. We don’t take their support lightly and couldn’t do it without them. The redesign hopefully presents their messages in an even cleaner and more impactful fashion.

It’s important to us that, when possible, you support them because they allow us to continue bringing you the community’s news.

While some are new and some are old, these are the ones that give us life: Tim Smith Real Estate Group, Hoag, Pendry Newport Beach, VEA Newport Beach, Balboa Bay Resort, City of Newport Beach, Spinnaker Investment Group, Billy’s at the Beach, Brenda McCroskey Team, South Coast Plaza, Sherman Library & Gardens, In-N-Out, UCI – Gavin Herbert Eye Institute, Newport Theatre Arts Center, Laguna Dance Festival, Laguna Playhouse, Festival of the Arts/Pageant of the Masters, The Termite Guy, Julie Laughton, Foundation Building Materials, Caring Companions at Home, Pacific Closet & Garage, CJ Air Conditioning & Heating, and the many others that come in and out throughout the course of the year.

They’re all important and we thank, thank, thank them!

If you want in, we’d love to have you! Again, let me know, we’ll figure out what works. (

• • •

Speaking of advertising, I’m often asked, “What’s your reach?” I would say we have great numbers and go to virtually every continent on the globe.

And someone might argue, “Yeah, sure, you have readers in Antarctica?” (Laugh, laugh, snicker, snicker.)

Well, we do now!

Mayor Pro Tem Joe Stapleton sent this yesterday from, you guessed it, Antarctica. So there!

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Submitted photo

Mayor Pro Tem Joe Stapleton (left) and fiancée Julie Jacobs (second from left) become “Stu News Newport’s” first and second official Antarctica readers

Just as a sidenote, the visit to Antarctica completes the Mayor Pro Tem’s quest to visit every continent on the map. Congrats.

Joe, you’re my Christopher Columbus…my Magellan…my Ponce de León!

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