hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

September 13, 2012

Editorial: Revival of river boat parade is worth pursuing

The Haverhill Gazette

---- — It seems the end of summer used to be just a little more tolerable back when it meant it was time for the annual boat parade on the Merrimack River.

For more than 30 years, the Crescent Yacht Club in Bradford hosted the annual parade, a flotilla of dinghies, speedboats, pontoon boats and cabin cruisers that would run from Newburyport to Haverhill, where music, a cookout, raffles and awards for boat decoration awaited.

For the last decade of the parade’s run, the Crescent Yacht Club partnered with the North End Boat Club in Newburyport. The parades drew up to 75 boats, each decorated to reflect the year’s theme, such as Mardi Gras, Reggae on the River, and Pirates.

It all came to an end in 2009 due to declining interest.

Well, you never appreciate what you have until it’s gone. We’d love to see a return of the boat parade. The sight of the wildly decorated boats cruising up the river made quite a show for spectators.

It’s too late to set up a parade for this year, but next year is certainly a possibility, local boaters told reporter Mike LaBella.

“There’s a pretty good size group of us who would like to bring it back,” said Rick LeBlanc, a local building contractor who in the last years of the parade led it several times in his 28-foot cabin cruiser.

“Most people, I think, would like to see it come back,” Bob Jusko, commodore of the North End Boat Club, told LaBella. “What we need to do is get some of the other marinas involved and get some boats to participate.”

LeBlanc said he believes the boat parade could be revived without too much difficulty.

“Maybe what we have to do is go to the different marinas and yacht clubs down the river and talk it up,” he suggested. “There’s one group of boaters out of Newburyport who have dinghies and bigger boats as well. They have what they call their ‘dinghy invasion’ each year where they come up to Haverhill.”

A little talk, a little negotiation and it all could come together for a revival of the boat parade next year. The key is bringing in as many different groups as possible and making sure everyone benefits. Perhaps the parade could run upriver one year and downriver the next to assure that different clubs get the benefit of hosting the post-parade festivities.

These kinds of events are always a boon to the community. Vincent Ouellette, director of recreation for the city, told LaBella many spectators were drawn to the annual boat parade to see how the boats were decorated and what kinds of costumes boaters wore.

“Anytime you have festivals, boat parades ... things like the Rotary Club’s Rubber Duck Regatta, it brings the community together,” Ouellette said. “These things add to the character of the city.”

We encourage boating enthusiasts and the boat clubs along the Merrimack to get together and see what they can do. It would be great once again to see one last bit of summer fun on the river before the cold of winter sets in.