This year’s festival is themed “Salute to our Military,” and it will feature unique events like a lighted boat parade and a Dinghy Poker Run. The fun begins today (Friday, July 28) with children’s games and a tent concert.
From 5-7 p.m., there will be games for kids attending the event at the gazebo in Coghlin Park. There will be a military puppet show, and kids will have the chance to make puppets based on the different branches of the military.
Doors open to the Rock N Roll Invasion at 5 p.m., which will be on the corner of Culver and Griffith streets. The music kicks off at 7:15 p.m., and the 1980s tribute band Starfarm will be playing. Starfarm will be decked out in ’80s gear, and they will have a light show during the concert.
Sherry Tedaldi, one of the organizers of the event from the Cow Hill Yacht Club, said the Friday night concert is her favorite part of the weekend.
“People dance and sing all night,” she said. It is $5 per person to attend the concert.
On Saturday morning, there will be the Dinghy Poker Run, where participants will ride their small boats up and down the Kalamazoo River. They will stop occasionally to pick up cards, hoping to get the best hand.
“This event is very hilarious and allows your inner child to come out for an afternoon,” said Nancy McDonnall, the event captain. Participants will be dressed up, and there will be water cannons. Registration for the Poker Run starts at 11 a.m., and the event kicks off at noon at the boat launch in Coghlin Park.
The key event of the weekend is the Lighted Boat Parade on Saturday night. At 9:15 p.m., decorated boats will make their way up the Kalamazoo River and around the Kalamazoo Lake.
“The Venetian Festival revolves around the water,” said Tedaldi. “The boaters step up to the plate and provide the boat parade. It’s really very cool.”
People attending the event can observe the boat parade from several vantage points around Saugatuck by lining up along the the river and lake. After the parade at 10 p.m., there will be a fireworks show over Kalamazoo Lake.
“One of the things the attendees have said is, ‘I love Venetian weekend because it’s a party, fun atmosphere all weekend,’” said Tedaldi. “And that’s the truth. Come early, and enjoy the town.”
The Venetian Festival is hosted by the Cow Hill Yacht Club, and proceeds from the event will go toward helping local families and individuals facing hard times.