BY MADDY VITALE
Honoring heroes with boats highlighting the frontline workers in a year of a pandemic to a yacht decked out in a Christmas in July theme to one featuring French fries and a guy in a chicken costume.
The theme was “Honoring Our Heroes” in Saturday night’s 2021 Night in Venice Boat Parade in Ocean City. Participants showcased many different ways of getting their points across in the themed boats from serious to amusing.
Spectators watched from Bayside Center, the walkway on the Ninth Street bridge and from private parties along the bayfront.
Songs from “I Need a Hero” to “God Bless the USA” played from some of the boats along with other patriotic tunes.
Susanna Gambale, of Doylestown, Pa., and her children, Grace, 8, P.J., 10, and Sabrina, 14, enjoyed the festivities from the grounds of Bayside Center, where crowds gathered to watch the show on water, nibble on foods available from vendors and listen to music from a DJ.
“This is actually our first Night in Venice. We bought a summer house here four years ago, but we never watched it from here before,” Susana Gambale noted.
“It is really exciting to see a boat parade,” Sabrina added, as she played ball with her brother and sister while awaiting the start of the parade.
Mike Pyne, of Maryland, brought his daughter, Wilhelmina, 4, to watch her first Night in Venice parade.
Pyne’s parents have a home in Ocean City and he has been coming to the resort for years, he said.
“Wilhelmina hasn’t seen it before, but I have as a kid,” he noted.
Crowds watched, waved, laughed and called out to participants in the parade.
Musical performances pumped up the spectators, including one by members of the Ocean City Theatre Company.
Mayor Jay Gillian and members of City Council had their own boats as well as the Miss Night in Venice winner, Katie Bowman, and her court.
A group comprised of an epidemiologist, doctors and executives from Shore Medical Center in Somers Point, along with local physicians from Ocean City, provided essential facts and guidance to the mayor as he made decisions during the pandemic.
They were part of the Night in Venice parade. The grand marshals were Dr. Jason Chew, Dr. Christopher Lucasti, Dr. Charles Roche, Dr. Gary Raab and Dr. Jeanne Rowe.
The boats, as well as bayfront homes decorated in the year’s theme, and just about anything else a homeowner feels would highlight their residences are judged in a friendly competition.
The city releases the contest results typically within a day or two of the event.
This was the 66th annual Night in Venice. The first Night in Venice was actually in 1907, with cottages and bungalows along the bay illuminated with lights and torches, city spokesman Doug Bergen said.
“There were a handful of additional Night in Venice parades in the early 1900s and again in the 1920s,” Bergen said in an earlier interview. “But the celebration that we know today began in 1954 as a way to mark the 75th anniversary of Ocean City’s incorporation.”
A grand fireworks display capped off the night.