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.

Costumes, water pistols and the afternoon sun: that’s South Bethany’s recipe for the seventh annual Boat Parade, scheduled for Saturday, July 4, at 5 p.m.

It’s among the few Independence Day traditions that haven’t been canceled during the COVID-19 pandemic and state of emergency, partly due to the ability of participants to spread out while outdoors.

Town residents and property owners are being invited to sail their boats in the hour-long waterfront parade, hosted by the South Bethany Property Owners Association (SBPOA).

The general public is being invited to watch from the nearby street ends.

“There are a fair number of people who really look forward to it, so we’ve been thrilled. We have a good time,” said co-organizer Kent Stephan.

Participating boats will meet in Jefferson Creek at 4:45 p.m. At 5 p.m. they will travel up and down the Jefferson Creek Canal, South Anchorage Canal and York Canal.

Motorized boats (such as pontoons and center-consoles) will go first, followed by the human-powered watercraft (such as kayaks and stand-up paddleboards). All types of watercraft are welcome, as long as they fit in the main canals.

For boaters, the special part is entertaining the crowd, either with cleverly themed décor or simply by raising spirits with their own enthusiastic presence.

“We try to have signs that say scream and holler, and so far, we have squirt guns, and little kids want you to — particularly on hot days — to squirt them with a squirt gun,” Stephan said. “We have an award for Most Enthusiastic, so you don’t even have to decorate your boat that well — just have to dance,” yell and have fun. “It’s just supposed to be a rollicking fun time.”

Some people love having their boat in the parade as a family project, brainstorming all year for the perfect decorations and costumes. Then they bring that enthusiasm to the water.

“I think this year, with the COVID-19 and the shutdowns, you won’t have as much [decoration], but I think the enthusiasm will be there,” said Stephan. “Around this area, people just want to crawl out of their bunker and start doing things.”

Those who register beforehand are eligible to win prizes in seven categories: Best in Show, Christmas in July, Most Patriotic, Most Humorous, Most Creative and Most Enthusiastic.

Registration is encouraged (but not required) and can be done by emailing name, South Bethany address and phone number to sbcanalers@email.com.

“Looks like we may have a pretty good turnout. We have 18 or 19 signed up now,” said Stephan.

There will not be an awards ceremony this year, but the 2020 Boat Parade winners will receive a certificate and be recognized in the SBPOA newsletter.

Delaware health officials still advise people to wear face coverings in public and keep 6 feet of physical distance from people outside their household.

Staff Reporter

Laura Walter is an award-winning reporter on schools, environment, people and history. A graduate of Indian River High School and Washington College, she has rappelled off a building and assisted a magician, and encourages readers to act on local issues.