A decorated tugboat follows the parade route through the Balboa Yacht Basin during the 2010 Old Glory Boat Parade. (FILE PHOTO / July 4, 2009)

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It's tough being the Statue of Liberty.

Vanessa Butler learned that lesson her first year riding in the Old Glory Boat Parade. The Newport Beach resident joined family and friends in decorating a patriotic vessel, and with her tall stature, she proved a natural choice to double as America's most famous icon.

Still, holding that pose for the parade's duration turned out to be no mean feat. Butler supported herself by wrapping an elbow around the boat's shrouding while holding a book with the same arm and a makeshift torch with the other. One of her legs, cloaked in the gown, wrapped around the shrouding as well.

Will Butler strike the pose again this year? As of Friday, with the parade date a week away, she still hadn't decided.

"No, I don't think so, 'cause we've kind of worn that out," said Butler. "Or maybe we should have someone be the Statue of Liberty. We'll see."

If Butler doesn't opt to play Lady Liberty this year, someone else might. The annual parade, titled "Freedom Calling" for 2014, invites boaters to show off their patriotic side with decorations, music and anything else that fits on a vessel.

The festivities will kick off at 1 p.m. Friday, with the Orange County Sheriff's Harbor Patrol's red fire boat leading the way in Newport Harbor and VIP yachts following with dignitaries and servicemen and women. Entrants will compete for the Sweepstakes Award for best boat, as well as others for decoration, music, costumes, animation, "greatest spirit" and more. Winners will be announced at the awards banquet July 27.

Vice Commodore Dan O'Sullivan said a typical year draws about 35 boats, although he wasn't sure if the holiday's placement before the weekend would reduce the number.

"The problem we do have is that this year, it's on a Friday, so we have a long weekend," he said. "Some of the people with larger boats like to take off for the whole weekend, maybe to go to Catalina or some place. But I think there should be at least 30 boats this year."

Those seeking to enter their boats can do so until Thursday by contacting the American Legion, O'Sullivan said. In past years, the local legion post has hosted festivities for the public, but because of increased membership, the organizers have restricted the event to members and guests this year, according to Second Vice Commander Roger Henry.

Regardless, there are plenty of viewing spots alongside the harbor. Among those expected to attend the parade are children from the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which grants wishes to young patients with life-threatening conditions.

For O'Sullivan, a Vietnam veteran, the reverence for troops is especially poignant. The Lake Forest resident served two decades in the Marines and didn't always receive hosannas when he returned home.

"We weren't appreciated that much when we came back during that time," O'Sullivan said. "So to see the support the spectators give to the people in the boats is really rewarding to me."

If You Go

What: Old Glory Boat Parade

Where: Newport Harbor off Collins Island, Newport Beach

When: 1 p.m. Friday

Cost: Free

Information: (949) 673-5002 or http://www.americanlegionyachtclub.com