South Bethany Boat Parade

South Bethany hosts a boat parade each year on its canals to mark the Independence Day holiday. Boaters from stand-up paddlers to motor-powered craft dress up in costume, often to the year's theme, and celebrate with enthusiasm.

The South Bethany Boat Parade is back this year after taking a pandemic hiatus in 2020, and organizers are hoping for it to be the best ever.

Although the parade only started about six years ago, it has become quite a popular event, according to Joe Mormando, president of the South Bethany Property Owners Association. The parade, which plies the waters of the town’s canals, was started as a private event by Kent Stephan, then became an official town function and has since been taken over by the SBPOA. This year, Joe Petito is parade coordinator, Mormando said.

“We pulled the plug at the last minute” last year, having waited in hopes that it would be safer for spectators to gather, Mormando said.

As of late last week, there were about 18 vessels signed up for the 2021 boat parade, and Mormando said he expects more to sign up before the parade sets sail on Sunday, July 4, at 5 p.m.

“We’re going to have probably as many boats as we’ve ever had,” Mormando said.

The parade is laid back in the sense that there is no set registration deadline. (Boaters are asked to get their information to the organizers in a timely fashion, however — just so the boats can be properly organized by category before the parade begins. That helps to allow plenty of room for any boats that might have difficulty making the turns in the canals).

This year, there is no set theme, so Mormando said he expects to see some creative entries. As for his own boat, a 25-foot Grady-White, Mormando was mum as to the theme, but said he would be joined on the boat by his daughter and grandson. With the parade being held on July 4, generous use of red, white and blue, and patriotic props, are encouraged, he said.

“Most people display some kind of American flag,” he said.

Certificates will be awarded to winning boats in several categories, including Funniest, Most Patriotic and Most Creative, and there is also plenty of room for those who “just want to have fun” and not be judged. Suggestions from the parade committee: “Display an American flag on your vessel. Fly your South Bethany burgee, if you have one. Wear mostly red, white and blue.”

Boaters will “rendezvous” at Jefferson Creek at 4:30 p.m. Participants will need to display parade vessel numbers on both sides of their boats (the numbers will be provided before the parade).

Mormando said most spectators gather at canal ends or simply at the edge of their properties to watch the boats go by, with the parade usually taking about 90 minutes to make its way along the canals.

While there are few rules in the boat parade, kayaks and canoes are encouraged to keep to the end of the parade. A few types of watercraft are not allowed — including sail boats under sail, paddleboards and personal watercraft — for safety reasons.

“It’s a cute tradition,” and one he is glad to see returning this year, Mormando said. “It’s a fun time.”

To register for the parade, boaters are asked to send their information to

Staff Reporter

Kerin majored in journalism at Ohio University and has worked as an editor and reporter for monthly, daily and weekly publications in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Delaware since 1983. A native of Baltimore, Md., she has lived in Ocean View since 1996.