By Pete Weitzner, NB Indy Special
Balboa Island Museum Newport Beach enters 2022 eager to build on the momentum of 2021, when it expanded all facets of the business, returned its popular live events, and added an all-new and likely annual celebration – the “Fun Zone Festival,” which drew 300 guests to an amusement park-themed event at the Pyle family’s new venue on the Balboa Peninsula.
“It was a great way to end the year,” said Museum President Emeritus Shirley Pepys, “but now let’s move on to next year.”
Pepys hopes for a full slate of onsite and offsite events as well as new exhibits at 210B Marine Avenue and satellite locations including the Newport Beach Public Library and John Wayne Airport.
Here is what is already planned for 2022:
- The first Sunday supper of 2022 is February 20.
- Vietnam Veterans Day is Tuesday, March 29, “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans”. (Note: The museum, led by WWII vet Bill Stewart, is continuing its project to recognize every vet on the island, the register of nearly 200 can be found here on the museum’s website. https://www.balboaislandmuseum.org/veterans/)
- A new “AirCal Exposure” is coming in March. The airline had a 20-year history from 1967 to 1987, eventually being sold by General William Lyon and businessman George Argyros to American Airlines. AirCal has introduced the first scheduled nonstop flights to San Francisco International Airport (SFO) from John Wayne Airport.
- February brings the Lunar New Year Exhibition, plus an exhibition and event honoring restaurateurs Wing Lam, Cheong Lee and their families (Wahoo’s, Shanghai Pine Gardens)
- Spring will bring an update to the children’s exhibit.
Will there be a Fun Zone Festival II and a second chance to be a kid again? “It’s a possibility,” Pepys said.
Back to Stride in 2021
Last year (2021) was the third full year for the new Balboa Island Museum at its central Marine Avenue location. Although operating under pandemic conditions, the museum has managed to return to normal in many ways. Some highlights:
- The May 30 Memorial Day pinning ceremony brought the return of live events for veterans, so central to the museum’s mission. Pinning ceremonies allow our local veterinarians to share some of their history. In November, the museum co-sponsored the Veterans Day BBQ at Balboa Island Park. And on December 7, 2021, the youngest living WWII veteran and island resident, Bill Stewart, accompanied seven other OC veterans to Hawaii, in remembrance of the 80th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
- Sunday night dinners, guest speakers, and theatrical events all returned to the museum, including October 7, TINBOX Theatricals’ “Goblins to Gravy.” Speakers included Tom Stillwell, founder of “I Grew Up in Newport Before It Was the OC” (NBB4OC), and Chris Epting, author/pop culture historian, “Rock-n-Roll in the OC “.
- The museum’s patrons have given generously, from contributing nearly $100,000 in memberships to more than $50,000 in fundraising. Major donations and grants were supplemented by $150,000 from the Argyros Family Foundation, $20,000 from Orange Arts County for COVID relief for small businesses and nonprofits, and $10,000 from the Exchange Newport Harbor Club for an education program for elementary school students in the Newport Mesa School District.
- New exhibits, including the initial artist gallery, included marine artist Wyland, “Celebrating Local Artists” under an eye-catching umbrella art installation, aerial photography by Gray Malin, “Duffy Boats on the Bay” and “Elegance Afloat: Yachts Form a Bygone Era”, a joint exhibition of the Balboa Island Museum and the Sherman Library
- A bountiful year in collections was highlighted by separate donations of the mechanical horse and the painted “Mustang”, a 1944 World War II painting, “Balboa Rendezvous”, by SG Vosburg, and a wave uniform from the WWII navy that belonged to Carol Matthau, wife of Walter Matthau.
- The number of members exceeded 500. An absolute record.
In 2020, the Balboa Island Museum Newport Beach was one of four museums, out of more than 40, chosen as one of the best in Orange County, in the Los Angeles Times annual readers’ poll for their people, places and preferred services in Orange County. The others: Bowers Museum, Discovery Cube Orange County and Orange County Museum of Art.
Author Pete Weitzner is a longtime Orange County writer and editor, and the co-producer of the documentary “The Golden Age of Newport Harbor.”