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Fifty-five years ago, City officials decided to hold a boat parade and bay front home celebration as part of the City’s Diamond Jubilee or 75th Anniversary.

It was to be based on a similar event in Venice, Italy. Art Watkins, the City’s Public Relations Director and Jack Jernee, captain of the lifeguards, organized the event. Watkins had been a tour director and witnessed the Venetian regatta before coming to this family resort.

Thanks to Watkins and Jernee and with funding from the City, the modern Night In Venice was born in the summer of 1954. An earlier event, also called Night In Venice, was held in Ocean City in the early 1900s. It consisted of Philadelphia debutantes accompanied by bands sailing through lagoons and greeting bay front homeowners.

The modern version has been held every year since 1954 and never once been cancelled by rain.

This year’s edition is set for Saturday, July 25 starting 7:30 p.m. at the Longport Bridge, the north point of the Island. Boats will sail along the bay and in and out of lagoons to 23rd St. and South Harbor. There will be grandstands set up along the street ends so that the public can enjoy the Parade. Seating is free.

Cash prizes will be awarded to the best decorated lagoon homes and boats in various categories over and under 24 ft. The boat categories include Most Original, Best Decorated, Best Lead Boat, Musical, Comic, Classic Boat (25 years or older with historic value) and Children’s Division (completely decorated by children 15 and under).

All boat owners who enter the Parade will receive a $50 cash card for Ocean City businesses. They will also be given a photo of their boat sailing in the Parade. Both boaters and homeowners will receive a commemorative mug for entering the event.

The Parade will honor the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies. Optional decorating theme for homes and boats is The 100th Anniversary of the City’s Baby Parade set for August.

The boat parade is led by Miss Night and Venice and her court. Twelve young ladies vie for the title by raising money for local public service organizations. The individual who collects the most funds is awarded the title. Monies help to support the Ocean City After Prom, scholarships for Shore Memorial Hospital nursing students and the Exchange Club Family Center for the prevention of child abuse.

To enter a boat or home in competition, call or stop at City Hall Annex, 901 Asbury Ave., Mon.-Fri. from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., 609-525-9300 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or fax 609-399-0374. After hours or on weekends call 609-364-4010. Entry in the competition is free.

BASIC INFORMATION: The 9th Street Bridge will be closed at approximately 7: 45 p.m. until all boats pass through. The Longport and 34th St. Bridges remain open to car traffic.

Both car drivers and boat captains must refrain from drinking. Virtually the entire Ocean City Police force will be patrolling the streets and directing traffic. The bay will be heavily patrolled by the U.S. Coast Guard, Coast Guard Auxiliary, Marine Police and 14 Night In Venice volunteer patrol boats.

Free parking and shuttle service will be available from the Airport Parking Lot, 25th and Bay Ave. and the soccer field at Tennessee Ave. starting 5 p.m. Shuttles will also pick up persons parked at the Aquatic and Fitness Center, Library Complex, 17th and Simpson Ave. Shuttles will drop off spectators at street ends where they can watch the parade and return them to parking lots afterward. The service is free and will be available until midnight.

The Night In Venice celebration begins with the Merchants of Venice Seafood Festival set for Friday, July 24 from 5 to 9 p.m. extending from 6th to 9th Streets on Asbury Ave. Admission is free and there will be an array of seafood for sale from over 40 vendors, entertainment for children and crafters.

For information contact the Public Relations Office, 609-525-9300 or visit www.ocnj.us.