Participants in this year’s Night In Venice Parade range from seasoned vets, to rookies

OCEAN CITY - Kim O'Neill and Summer Sarajian greeted friends and family members as they boarded the two-level party boat the North Star prior to the Night in Venice parade.

Some were wearing large wigs and tie-dyed shirts, while others were wearing peace-sign covered glasses and bellbottoms. Because this year the group's theme was "Groovin' to the 70's."

"We tried to pick something that everyone could have fun with and, believe me, they are," said Sarajian, 32, of Philadelphia.

The friends used to buy tickets to get on boats like the North Star for the parade.

"Then a few years ago we decided to through our own party and rent out the boat for ourselves," said O'Neill, 31, of Philadelphia, who has booked the North Star for the past four years for 115 of her closest friends. "This year we have people here from all over New Jersey, and as far away as Maryland and Georgia."

The North Star's captain Tim Barrus said his boat has been booked by March every year.

"It's a nice friendly atmosphere when people book out the whole boat, because everyone is familiar with everyone else on board," said Barrus.

And O'Neill said having a boat party, as opposed to a house party on the water, has an added benefit.

"You get have a good time drinking out on the water and see the decorations on all the houses, which you can't really see on land," she said.

But this year's parade also included a host of newbies.

Gene and Jennifer Dina usually rent out their vacation home in Ocean City for Night in Venice weekend.

But this year Gene wanted his family to enjoy the weekend themselves for once. So the couple teamed up with friends with a boat and picked a theme to go with the parade's "Broadway by the Bay."

"We just went to see ‘Wicked' on Broadway last month, so that was easy," said Jennifer Dina, 40, of Berlin, Camden County.

The two families, nine passengers in all, loaded a 23-foot Hydra Sport with witch hats, brooms and other "wicked" decorations onto their boat at the Ocean City Public Marina.

"This is the first time for all of us. So as long as we have a good time together, we're already winners," said boat owner Stefanie Richards, 47, of Berlin, Camden County. "But if we win anything, it would be icing on the cake."

Gene Dina said his goal for the night was simple: "To have a real fun time."

The boat he was boarding as he said that was coincidently named "Reel Fun."



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