The 58th annual Night in Venice boat parade in Ocean City officially begins 6 p.m. Saturday, but it really is an all-day event.
Traffic will be congested and parking will be hard to find starting in the early afternoon, if past years’ experiences hold true. Officials recommend arriving early in order to find a place to park near the bay.
That being said, the city always welcomes as many people as want to come, with past rough guesses of visitor attendance in the tens of thousands.
“The first time you see it, it’s amazing, because you’ve never seen anything like this,” said Sue Canale, a longtime volunteer on the Night in Venice Committee.
The new Route 52 causeway should alleviate some traffic problems caused by the parade. The previous structure had drawbridges that would stay open for the parade’s duration, but this year boats can pass freely under the fixed span.
“The only variable is that the opening is much farther west,” said Mark Brody, who is in charge of organizing the lineup of boats. He said a boat will direct captains to the new channel.
The city will run free shuttles from 4 to 11 p.m. to all the viewing areas, with pickups at the municipal airport on 25th Street, the soccer field at Tennessee Avenue and the community center at 1735 Simpson Ave.
To view the parade, there are public locations along the bay, such as the marina on Bay Avenue near Second Street as well as each street end. The city will be placing bleachers at each street end, but seats are expected to go quickly.
There is also a viewing site from the Bayside Center on Bay Avenue near Fifth Street, where there will be live music and food for sale. Tickets, which are available at the Music Pier box office on the Boardwalk, cost $3 for children and $7 for adults. Gates to the center open at 4 p.m.
The parade begins at the Ocean City-Longport Bridge, progresses south, in and out of several lagoons, and ends at Tennessee Avenue. Brody said the whole event will likely end before 9 p.m.
As of Friday evening, more than 60 boats and more than 200 houses had registered, said city Public Information Director Mark Soifer, but more can still register at the final captains meeting, 9 a.m. Saturday at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, Bay Avenue and 30th Street.
“Put a message out there — all boats are welcome,” Canale said.
City police have issued warnings that no open containers of alcohol will be tolerated on the public rights-of-way, and homeowners are asked to observe the noise ordinance that takes effect at 10 p.m.
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