Ventnor goes green with 6th annual boat parade

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VENTNOR – What started as a spoof of a neighboring community’s big event has turned into a fun and exciting summer night in the City of Ventnor.

The sixth annual Night in Ventnor Go Green Boat Parade will be held rain or shine at 5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 2 along Ventnor’s back bay area. Although the forecast is calling for heavy rain overnight Friday into Saturday, organizers say the parade will most likely go on.

“Our decision time is 2:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon. We had a hurricane one year, but it cleared up in time for the parade. The palm trees will have to be leaning over for us to cancel it,” organizer Diane Birkbeck said Thursday evening.

A group of citizens “with no professional or political affilations” came up with the idea to hold the parade as a spoof, but over the years it has become one of Ventnor’s biggest nights out.

“It was all a big spoof,” Birkbeck said. “I docked my kayak at a friend’s house and we were talking about the organizers of the Ocean City Nights in Venice parade complaining they didn’t get enough boats in their parade. Gas was expensive back then and Ocean City was giving out gas cards to attract boaters. I said, we don’t need gas cards, let’s do a spoof and organize our own parade, only we’ll do it green with no fuel.”

That first year, the parade included inflatable rafts, a Hawaiian canoe, skulls from Viking Rowing Club, kayaks and a dragon boat led the way. Participants even tried their hand at making their own boats out of cardboard, plastic or whatever would float.

This year, Michael Einwechter of Ventnor Coffee built a pirate ship out of plywood, christened it the “Coffee Lady,” and held a successful maiden voyage. 'Coffee Lady' is sure to catch the eye of the judges, who will be deciding the winners from their perch near the Dorset Avenue Bridge.

“So what if it doesn’t float or he falls into the water? It’s a really fun way to attract attention to his business,” Birkbeck said.

Parade includes all types of fuel-free boats, including sculls, row boats and kayaks. Parade starts at Ski Beach on Dorset Avenue and ends at the Viking Rowing Club on Surrey Avenue in Ventnor Heights. All along the way, there will be parties held at bay front homes and groups of spectators will gather at street ends.

“The party people throw out beads and stuff to the boaters, who really get creative with themes and costumes,” Birkbeck said. “It’s an inexpensive way to have some really good fun, whether it’s in a boat or on the sidelines.”

Birkbeck said one year, a floating group dressed up as monkeys, and when they passed the judges’ stand, they threw bananas at the judges.

The parade starts at the Ski Beach boat ramp at Dorset Avenue and the bay and proceeds through the back bay area to Viking Rowing Club where participants will enjoy a barbecue and music. Prizes will be awarded for individuals and groups, as well as well-decorated homes along the route.

A Fishing Expo will be held before the race at 3 p.m. at Ski Beach. Kayak and bass fishing expert and television star Chad Hoover, who is sponsoring the parade, will be there to share expert advice about fishing from a kayak, lures and rigging a kayak, Birkbeck said.

Registration fee is $10 per person, $5 for children under 12 with an adult. Proceeds go to purchase pet waste bags and new holiday decorations for the Ventnor community. Register at AAAA Bike Shop, 5500 Ventnor Ave., Ventnor Coffee, 108 Dorset Ave.

For more see, or call Diane Birkbeck at 609-822-2903, or Mike Weisen at 609-487-0808.

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