Night in Venice parade interrupted by powerful storm

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Strong, gusty winds and rain hit as the last boat made its way through the 17th Street lagoon

OCEAN CITY – You hope it never rains on your parade, but this year luck ran out for the annual Night in Venice boat parade.

Rain, on Night in Venice? It’s never happened in the 58-year history of Ocean City’s famous boat parade.

“It’s never rained, and they never cancelled the parade, nor did it ever have to be stopped,” said city publicist Mark Soifer. “It’s a shame, but at least the boats were able to sail for most of the parade route. All of the boats made it past the judges and most of the boats stayed in until the end.”

Dark clouds were looming and the last of about 60 boats had just made their way into the Gardens Lagoon as part of the annual Night in Venice boat parade when it started to rain.

Then, as quick as it started, it stopped.

“How about that, three drops of rain and it disappears,” said Tom McGowan, who owns a home on the Gardens Lagoon.

The good luck did not last, however. At 7:30 p.m., 90 minutes after the parade started, as the last boat made its way into head of the 17th Street lagoon, it began pouring rain.

The storm was short-lived, but was accompanied by strong winds and lightning, and interrupted the finish of the parade. At about 8 p.m., homes in the neighborhood near 10th Street and Bay Avenue, including Palen Avenue, lost power.

Public safety officials reported no serious incidents on the water during the storm.

The parade made its way along most of the route before the storm hit, but missed the bay front and two lagoons between 18th Street and Tennessee Avenue at the end of the route.

Soifer said the record remains intact that the parade has never been cancelled by the rain; 2012, he said, brings only an interruption.

The veteran supporter of the parade said he was impressed with some of the entries, including a boat depicting a battleship.

“That was the best I’ve ever seen in the parade,” he said. “It was pretty amazing.”

Led by the newly crowned Miss Night in Venice Jennie Kerbeck and her court, the parade, with the theme “Remember When,” offered a potpourri of colorfully decorated boats. There was lots of music, fun and merriment. Parade Grand Marshal Dick Richards, an Ocean City resident who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this spring as the original drummer for Bill Haley and His Comets, smiled and waved to the crowd.

The parade made history double time this year.

Aside from the first parade to experience rain, it was the first time the Route 52 Bridge did not have to be shut down during the parade to allow boat traffic to pass through an open drawbridge. With the new $500 million bridge and causeway in place, traffic flowed smoothly throughout the night.

The theme of the parade, “Remember When” was designed to signify the old and new bridges. Boat captains each received a commemorative mug signifying the theme.

As for the boats, the most common theme of the evening was the plastic red Solo cup; four boats sported various takes on the popularity of the ubiquitous cups.

Others focused on the “Remember When” theme, with “Made in America,” prohibition, old favorites such as Candy Land and a wide variety of memorable local landmarks. Decorative party boats were popular, with themes such as “Those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer.”

The Ocean City Theatre Company put on a show for parade viewers as actors, dancers and singers, dressed in elaborate costumes, entertained throughout the route. A bevy of local pageant winners, including Miss Ocean City and Miss New Jersey, waved to the crowds. Mayor Jay Gillian and the city administration, and city councilmen were also included.

The fun was not all on the water, however. There were house parties all along the parade route, stretching from the Longport-Ocean City Bridge to Tennessee Avenue.

Tom McGowan hosted a celebration of the summer Olympics with his wife Eileen.

“We try to plan our themes, giving our friends and family an opportunity to dress in something fun and interesting,” he said, adding that his family members are big Olympic fans.

“We had about 50 people here last night watching the opening ceremonies,” Eileen McGowan said.

“We look forward to the parade every year,” Tom McGowan said. “It’s a nice opportunity to get together with family and friends, celebrating Ocean City.”

Going along with the Olympic theme, David Ballard and Christian Argiroff sported neon green uni-tards that lit up the Gardens Lagoon, attracting lots of attention, especially from people riding on the boats.

“We figured everyone was concentrating on the summer Olympics, so we’d do the winter Olympics,” said Ballard.

“So we busted out the green,” Argiroff said. “These are Jamaican bobsled outfits. Feel the rhythm, feel the rhyme, get up the Jamaican, its bobsled time!”

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