Night In Venice marks it 56th celebration on July 24th. The parade has never been cancelled because of the weather or for any other reason but there have been some close calls. City Public Relations Director, Mark Soifer, remembers a time about 15 years ago when Philadelphia TV anchor, Larry Kane, was grand marshal. It had stormed all night before the event and area weather forecasters were predicting a complete washout with flooding for the day. “Larry came to Ocean City with a van full of foul weather gear,” recalls Soifer. “By the time he arrived at the Yacht Club to board his boat, the sky was clear and the sun was shining.
“We’ve also had rain or threats of rain until a few hours before start time,” notes Soifer who has worked on the event for 39 years. “But the skies have always cleared.”
Weather hasn’t been the only factor that has threatened the Parade. “One year there was a complete turnover of the Committee and it was touch and go about whether we could physically handle the event,” said Soifer “It was then that Harbor Master, George Mimnaugh and Dave Winslow stepped in to rescue the event.” High gas prices and a down turn in the economy have all been recent factors that have caused concern. Somehow, the event always manages to sail on. “We keep our fingers crossed and the committee works hard,” said Soifer.
Night In Venice is set for July Sat., 24th starting 7:30 p.m. at the Longport Bridge, the north point of the Island. Boats will sail along the bay and in and out of lagoons to 23rd St. and South Harbor. There will be grandstands set up along street ends so that the public can enjoy the Parade. Seating is free.
A total of $5000 in Cash prizes will be awarded to the best decorated lagoon homes and boats. Cash prizes of $1,000 each will be given to the Best Decorated Boat and Home. Three $500 prizes will be awarded to runners-up in both categories. All boat owners who enter the Parade will be given a $50 cash card to enhance their decorations, a photo of their boat sailing in the Parade and commemorative Captain’s hats. Both boaters and homeowners will receive a commemorative mug for entering the event. Optional decorating theme for homes and boats is “Some Enchanted Evening.”
The boat parade is led by Miss Night and Venice and her court. Twelve young ladies vie for the title by raising money for local public service organizations. The individual who collects the most funds is awarded the title. Monies help to support the Ocean City After Prom, scholarships for Shore Memorial Hospital nursing students and the Exchange Club Family Center for the prevention of child abuse.
To enter a boat or home in the competition, call or stop at City Hall Annex, 901 Asbury Ave., Mon.-Fri. from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., 609-525-9300 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or fax 609-399-0374. Forms can be downloaded by accessing www.ocnj.us, click on Night In Venice information. After hours or on weekends call 609-364-4010. Entry in the competition is free.
BASIC INFORMATION: The 9th Street Bridge will be closed at approximately 7: 45 p.m. until all boats pass through. The Longport and 34th St. Bridges remain open to car traffic.
Both car drivers and boat captains must refrain from drinking. Virtually the entire Ocean City Police force will be patrolling the streets and directing traffic. The bay will be heavily patrolled by the U.S. Coast Guard, Coast Guard Auxiliary, Marine Police and 10 Night In Venice volunteer patrol boats.
Free parking and shuttle service will be available from the Airport Parking Lot, 25th and Bay Ave. and the soccer field at Tennessee Ave. starting 5 p.m. Shuttles will also pick up persons parked at the Aquatic and Fitness Center, Library Complex, 17th and Simpson Ave. Shuttles will drop off spectators at street ends where they can watch the parade and return them to parking lots afterward. The service is free and will be available until midnight.
The Night In Venice celebration begins with the Merchants of Venice Seafood Festival set for Friday, July 23 from 5 to 9 p.m. extending from 6th to 9th Streets on Asbury Ave. in the downtown. Admission is free and there will be an array of seafood for sale from over 40 vendors plus entertainment for children and crafters.
Night In Venice is sponsored by the City and the Ocean City Tourism Commission. For information contact the Public Relations Office, 609-525-9300 or visit www.ocnj.us.