The 59th annual Night in Venice boat parade and bacchanal (which is not part of the official name, but may as well be) is Saturday night. This year, the John R. Elliott HERO Campaign - which promotes the use of designated drivers and, now, designated boaters - will be a sponsoring partner of the event.

Which is a very good idea.

We don't mean to be party poopers, but Night in Venice is all about mixing parties - read drinking - and boating, and that's not a safe mix.

The annual event isn't quite as rowdy as it once was. The number of boats in the parade has declined somewhat in recent years. But Night in Venice is still expected to attract 100,000 people this year - and, uh, most of them will be drinking (kind of ironic for a dry town, no?).

So having the HERO Campaign involved is an excellent idea. And, folks, heed the message: If you are drinking, don't pilot your boat. Have a designated helmsman.

In 1989, city officials were so concerned about Night in Venice rowdiness that they changed the starting time to 4 p.m. from the traditional 6 p.m. and changed the name of the event to "Festival in Venice."

The change lasted exactly that one year. Participants protested the earlier start time. One boat carried a banner saying "What's Next? Breakfast in Venice?" with the people on board clad in pajamas.

And besides the protests, there was another unexpected problem with the earlier start time. As city public relations director Mark Soifer noted at the time, the parties (and the drinking) just started earlier.

So it's back to a 6 p.m. start time Saturday night for this year's Night in Venice, which will include a salute to members of the military and those who helped in the Hurricane Sandy relief effort.

Have a ball, folks - on land, on the water or on the walkway on the new causeway bridge into town (a great viewing spot).

But if you've been drinking, don't get behind the wheel of your car - or your boat.


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