'Night in Venice' boat parade returns to Ocean City this weekend

About 200 houses and 150 boats will participate in the event this year.
OCEAN CITY, New Jersey (WPVI) -- Night in Venice, Ocean City's popular boat parade, returns this weekend after it was canceled last year.

About 150 boats and 200 homes are signed up to participate in the parade on Saturday, with prizes awarded for the best costumes and decorations.

On Friday, the Junior Night in Venice participants from Ocean City Yacht Club busily put the finishing touches on their boats.

The kids, ages 8-11, decorated their boats and wore costumes, sailing around a nearby lagoon for all to see Friday evening.

"They know how to sail, they know how to handle the boats. This is super fun for them because they get to go around the lagoon and everyone throws candy at them," said sailing instructor Katie Bowman, who was also named this year's Miss Night in Venice, based on her charity fundraising efforts.

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Sailors and spectators are thrilled to have the popular boat parade back this year after COVID-19 restrictions led to its cancellation last year.

"Really excited. It's really nice to have it back and start to feel normal again," said participant Samantha Berdow.

This year's theme: honoring local heroes, including healthcare and frontline workers.

"We're trying to really make this about the people that helped us get through the pandemic and get back to where we are now - with a little bit more normalcy," said Dan Kelchner, Director of Community Services in Ocean City.

On Saturday, the boats will start near the Longport bridge and parade across the bay, through the lagoons ending at Tennessee Avenue.

The weekend is big for businesses in town, too.

"It's the second busiest weekend of the summer - the first being Fourth of July, and then Night in Venice a close second," said Mark Staszak, owner of Express Pizza and Subs.

"A lot of sub trays, a lot of big pizza orders, a lot of catering for parties on the bay especially for tomorrow," he said.

While the number of COVID-19 cases in New Jersey has more than doubled over the past two weeks restrictions remain lifted, though officials continue to urge people to get vaccinated.

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People say after the disappointment of last year, they're ready to enjoy time outside with friends.

"We're going to have close to 100 folks here and we're really excited about that. We'll have a band and food and entertainment," said Bob Weller of Doylestown, Pa., who also has a house along the bay in Ocean City.

Night in Venice starts at 6 p.m. Saturday.

Bleachers are placed at several points along the bay for the public to watch.

Fireworks start around 9 p.m.
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