By MADDY VITALE
This was one memorable Night in Venice display Saturday.
There were floating tiki boats packed with Mummers strumming away. A yacht-themed “Shark Week,” complete with dancing great whites. And a “truck,” gliding along the water with a man singing in the back.
It doesn’t get any better than that. The theme for this year’s Night in Venice boat parade was “Mummers: Struttin’ on the Bay.” But there were also so many other boats with different themes to give spectators a lot of variety.
In all, 131 boats made up the parade, and it was certainly one of the biggest in the parade’s 67-year history.
Jay Wright, recently retired Villanova University men’s basketball coach, and his wife, Patty, were the grand marshals. Jackie Evancho, who will be performing a Sunday concert with the Ocean City Pops, danced with others in her boat for the parade.
Miss Night in Venice Gracie Anderson and her court, Nora Bridgeford, Andi Helphenstine, Ava Tarone and Julia Keich, waved from their boat. Miss Ocean City Maddyn Randazzo, Junior Miss Makenna Fleming and Little Miss Arianna Diantonio also made a special appearance as did Miss New Jersey Volunteer Natalie Ragazzo.
City dignitaries including Mayor Jay Gillian and his wife, Michele Gillian, executive director of Ocean City’s Chamber of Commerce, along with City Council also had boats in the parade.
The Ocean City Theatre Company gave a lively performance from a yacht with dance routines.
For the families who viewed the event from Bayside Center, they literally had front row seats to the action and entertainment, which also included lots of music on the boats and even from neighboring homes.
Amy and Devin Araujo, of Chicopee, Mass., brought their children, Charlotte, 9, Wyatt, 7, 13-year-old Mackenzie and 18-year-old Kaleigh, for a family night.
They sat back and waited for the boat show to begin. But first, the youngest kids had their faces painted.
Amy’s parents, Jon and Donna Montemagni, have vacationed in the resort for 49 years and first brought Amy as a child.
In turn, The Araujos come down to continue the family tradition.
The boat show is always on their list.
“I like all the boats and the decorations,” Charlotte exclaimed before the start of the parade.
The Night in Venice boat parade takes the same route each year. It begins near the Ocean City-Longport toll bridge and travels along the bayside to Tennessee Avenue, looping in and out of lagoons along the way.
Madison Spizarny, 10, of Mullica Hill, and her 6-year-old sister, Morgan, along with their friend, Sami Dunn, of Pitman, N.J., proudly displayed their colorful designs courtesy of a face-painting company at the event.
For some, Night in Venice festivities were part of a longtime family tradition.
For others, like Mary Daley, of Berlin, N.J., who brought her 3-month-old beagle, Charlie, and her friend, Theresa Vente, of Chicago, it was their first time at the major show on the water.
“We’re just excited to see what it is all about,” Daley said.
The parade was only half of the entertainment.
In addition to the bayfront parade viewed from myriad areas of the island, including the Ninth Street Bridge, was a house decorating contest.
Judges pick winners among the boats and homes. The city typically announces the winners in the following couple of days.