To ignite Fourth of July festivities full of fun and community involvement, South Bethany will be holding its fourth annual South Bethany Boat Parade on Sunday, July 2.
Beginning at 5 p.m., the decorated boats are going to sail across the waters of the Jefferson Creek “bay area” on the west side of South Bethany while visitors and residents watch and cheer from the sides.
Upon registering for the free event and decorating their boats in whatever theme they desire, the parade participants are expected to arrive around 4:30 p.m. to arrange themselves in an orderly line. South Bethany Boat Parade organizer Kathy Jankowski will be calling out boat numbers with a bullhorn.
A day prior to the parade, participants will be given two laminated numbers, which will be attached to both sides of their boats. Designating the boats’ positions in the parade, the numbers are intended to ensure a safe parade and to help judges evaluate the boats.
With Kent Stephan leading the procession, the boats will begin their route traveling up and down Jefferson Creek Canal and then up and down Anchorage Canal, up Bayshore Canal, up and down York Canal, back to Bayshore Canal and finishing the parade at the starting point.
To prevent any potential safety issues, resident Joe Conway and South Bethany Police Chief Troy Crowson will drive the “Safety Boat” in the middle of the line, while Jankowski will be stationed at the back.
“We usually bring up the rear, so that we make sure everyone is organized and so that we make sure everyone is going where they are supposed to be going,” Jankowski said.
To supplement those safety measures, organizers of the boat parade explained that paddle boards, personal watercraft and boats under sail are not eligible to participate in the parade. Kayaks and canoes may follow behind the procession but may not register as official participants. Officially registered vessels must comply with Coast Guard safety regulations.
As the boats proceed along the waterways of South Bethany, judges Dave Wilson, Steve Farrow, Lori Cicero and Frank Cicero will be assessing the contestants’ adornments from the point of Rebecca Road at the intersection of the Anchorage and Bayshore canals.
The 18 registered boats will compete for awards, consisting of Most Patriotic Boat, Funniest Boat, Most Creative Boat and Best in Show. All winners will receive a certificate, while the Best in Show recipient will be awarded with a flag, passed down from previous winners, to put on their boat for the rest of the year.
In order to obtain these awards after the parade, all participants and observers are being invited to attend the Boat Parade Award Ceremony at town hall around 7 p.m. to recognize the victors and also enjoy refreshments of hotdogs, chips, sodas and water.
Although the parade comprised boats and their owners, the fun of the event is not solely limited to boat owners but also includes the observers. Before the parade, South Bethany community members were sent a map of the parade’s course in a news update so that they are able to follow the parade.
While the parade occurs, the residents and visitors usually cheer on the boats as they celebrate from their homes in South Bethany.
“We’ve had quite a few people show up for this,” Stephan said. “We have people who plan events around it. They’ll have a party outside on their deck.”
“A lot of people have invited guests to come over and watch the parade,” Jankowski said. “They make a big deal about it and have cocktail parties and barbecues.”
Before the Boat Parade became a town event, it started as a Fourth of July celebration of boat decorating for Jankowski and a few friends. Jankowski’s idea soon grew to become a larger-scale festivity.
“I wanted another activity that people in or community could participate in and do something that everyone would enjoy, so that people — even if they didn’t have a boat — could be along the route and cheer,” she said.
As a town council member and the chairman of the Communications & Public Relations Committee, Carol Stevenson has been helping Jankowski gain publicity for her event while also approving any information regarding the Boat Parade before it is sent to the townsfolk.
Having watched the parade all four past years, Stevenson said she loves the parade since its fun extends to the entire town.
“It’s just fun to watch everybody having fun,” Stevenson said. “It’s fun to watch interactions between the spectators and the boats as they go by. It’s just a real feel-good thing.”