By MADDY VITALE
Night in Venice weekend in Ocean City not only rivaled the ones from prior years, but on Saturday, the 67th in its history, it set a record for the number of boats and homes decorated for the event.
From day-trippers to vacationers to year-round residents, the town was packed with families just having a good time. There were close to 140 boats in the parade and 168 homes were decorated, officials said, making it the largest NIV in many years – if not the biggest.
Spectators gathered to watch the boat parade from different vantage points throughout town. The Bayside Center was filled with families enjoying the great view. Judging of the best decorated boats took place there. People lined up along the path on the Ninth Street Bridge to also see from afar the festivities.
(Video courtesy of Ocean City and Martin Fiedler, Just Right TV Productions)
There were house parties and bayfront homes along the parade route decorated in a variety of themes, from the city’s selected theme of “Mummers: Struttin’ on the Bay,” to others.
Some homes and boats were decked out in Villanova University basketball motifs in honor of the grand marshals for the parade, the legendary recently retired Villanova University men’s basketball coach Jay Wright, and his wife, Patty.
“Night in Venice was a huge success. We had a record number of boats and houses participate,” said Michele Gillian, executive director of the Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Gillian said the visitors also shopped, dined and enjoyed all of Ocean City.
“It was a banner weekend for the businesses in Ocean City,” she said. “Night in Venice has always been one of Ocean City’s signature events that highlight our beautiful back bays.”
Gillian noted that having the Wrights as grand marshals certainly helped with attendance. “I want to thank Jay and Patty Wright for being the grand marshals. There was some extra excitement for the parade because they were a part of it,” she said.
Michael Allegretto, aide to Mayor Jay Gillian, said that without the wonderful participation, there wouldn’t be a parade – certainly not as successful as the one this year.
“On behalf of the mayor and City Council, I want to thank everyone for making Night in Venice a great night, and I hope everyone had a terrific time,” Allegretto said. “The city wants to thank all the participants for their decorated boats and houses for making this another great event for Ocean City.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the popular event was canceled in 2020. In 2021, officials said there may have still been the pandemic effect on the number of participants.
There were 77 boats registered for the parade and 157 homes were decorated last year. The number of boats in 2019 was 71 and 156 homes were done up.
Daniel Kelchner, director of Community Services, noted that although officially there were 116 registered boats in the parade, there were actually many more.
“This year that number was truly closer to 140 participants, as there were two boat clubs who brought 20-25 boats each to the parade unexpectedly,” Kelchner explained. “It truly was a banner year for the parade.”