Ocean City experienced a bit of unwanted history Saturday night as a fierce storm let loose on the island during the annual Night In Venice boat parade and festival.
Many believe it was the first year it ever rained on the event in its 58-year history, although most of the parade was already finished by the time the rain started about 7:30 p.m.
“Some of the people got wet, but the parade definitely finished,” said Mark Brody, a parade organizer with the Night In Venice committee.
Brody said the parade was shorter this year because the threat of a storm apparently deterred many boaters from taking part in the parade. While about 60 registered, he guessed that only about 45 showed up.
The parade has attracted more than 100 boats in years past, but factors from the price of gas and the poor economy to more people choosing to simply throw house parties has resulted in fewer people registering for the event.
Besides being a giant party, Night in Venice contests in which people extensively and creatively decorate their boats and homes and are awarded prizes based on categories for boats and what area of the island they live on for homes.
City public information director Mark Soifer said about 200 homes registered this year, which is an aspect of the festival that has become more popular over the years.
One of the homes that won first prize in their neighborhood was the Gabriel family’s on Lagoon Road. They chose “Wedding Crashers” as the theme for their home on the lagoon, and what made it truly special was that they held an actual wedding by their floating dock.
The newlyweds were Rosemary and Bill Silverman. Rosemary’s daughter, Colette Gabriel, said they came up with the idea to hold the wedding before the theme came to mind. Luckily the storm held out more than long enough for the ceremony and celebration to go as planned.
There was some other history made this year besides the rain. This year marked the first time boats could pass underneath the new Route 52 causeway, which was completed in the spring, rather than go through the old causeway’s drawbridges.
That meant a lot less traffic congestion than in years past, but it also provided a unique place to view the parade for a few dozen people along the bridge’s mixed-use walkway.
The Sautter family, of Eighth Street, chose that as their vantage point.
“We wanted to say we came here the first year, on the new bridge, and we could talk about that the rest of our lives,” said Bill Sautter, who was with his wife, Dot, 12-year-old son, Jimmy, and 16-year-old daughter, Katie.
The new bridge was an inspiration for this year’s theme, “Do You Remember When?” The gift mug that people received for registering bore pictures of the new and old causeways and read “Celebrating an old friend and a new causeway.”
While the theme was optional, a lot of boats and homes picked up on it and chose to blast old one-hit wonders from their boats or decorate based on some item of nostalgia. Some winning concepts included “Remember the Wild West,” “Remember When We Played Candyland?” and “9th Street Bridge — Thank You For the Memories.”
Another piece of history was this year’s grand marshal of the parade, Ocean City resident Dick Richards, who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in April as the drummer for Bill Haley and the Comets, of “Rock Around The Clock” and “Shake Rattle and Roll” fame.
“It’s an honor,” Richards said before boarding his boat. “This is one of the biggest events of the year in Ocean City.”
Joining Richards in the parade was Jennie Kerbeck, this year’s Miss Night in Venice, who raised the most money for charity in a contest that is another aspect of the annual event.
Kerbeck’s mother, Vicki, is longtime friends with Colette Gabriel and was at the Wedding Crashers party, dressed in white like everyone else.
She said her daughter was “tickled to death” to be able to lead the caravan of boats this year, waving to the crowds along the bay and lagoons.
“It’s all for a good cause,” she said.
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