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Real floats cruise Lake Winnisquam for annual boat parade

The Cunningham family from Tucker Shore Road in Belmont went all out with decorations and costumes for this year’s boat parade theme of Around the World in 80 Days. Donna Rhodes. (click for larger version)
July 07, 2010
SANBORNTON — For 19 years the residents along Lake Winnisquam have enjoyed a unique tradition of prettying up their pontoon boats and decking out their docks for the annual Fourth of July Boat Parade, which runs from Pot Island to Mohawk Island and back.

The idea for a parade with "real floats" was conceived by former Sanbornton residents Chuck and Betty Hanley. For the last six years Barbara Bormes has been the lady at the helm of the Winnisquam Village Association parade, organizing the annual celebration. She said it has been a lot of hard work but a lot of fun at the same time.

"I start thinking about the theme probably a year ahead of time, then it's usually a couple months of getting the donations for prizes and collecting all the entry forms," Bormes said.

This year the theme was Around the World in 80 Days, and some people went all out to depict the classic Jules Verne story about a hot air balloon flight around the world. The Cunningham family from Tucker Shore Road in Belmont had their own hot air balloon on the stern of their pontoon boat, and everyone onboard dressed as characters from the book. Their neighbor Laurel Stacey sat onshore by Mosquito Bridge to cheer for them when the parade floated by.

"They've done this for a few years now and even won the first year they entered with their Peter Pan float. They go all out for the parade," Stacey said.

On the lake a flotilla of boats was anchored at a nearby sandbar to enjoy the day with front row seats for the parade. As the line of floats made its way to the bridge, horns honked and people cheered from land and shore. While many of the entries were pontoon boats, one family towed an inflatable giant float behind their small fishing boat, all decked out for the parade. A motorboat was converted from a modern craft to one from older days by attaching a paddle wheel to the side.

Some mischievous people aboard another pontoon boat mounted a huge slingshot to the back and fired water balloons at rival boats along the route. Colorful balloons were the prominent decorations for the day, however. The Cunninghams' boat had to pull out of line at Mosquito Bridge and wait for the parade to circle Mohawk Island for the trip back when it became evident their hot air balloon would not fit under the bridge. Another entry managed to ease its way carefully beneath the span, holding down their balloons until they cleared the low overpass.

Past parade themes have been centered around pirates, people's favorite Disney characters, heroes, and movies. The theme "Favorite Pastimes" saw a lot of clever decorations like a floating garden and sporting events.

"One year was an election year and so we did a political theme. There were some great entries that year. We had decorations with George Bush and even Hillary and Obama arguing with each other in the parade," Bormes said.

Prizes are awarded to participants, whether it is a dock or a boat that is decorated.

"A lot of the local businesses all contribute something. We have gift certificates from stores and restaurants and floatation devices or things like that from the nearby marinas that we pass out to the winners," said Bormes.

Judging this year's parade were Chris and Curt McGee, Paul and Norma Colp, Bob and Terry Hollowell and Marcia and Jack Glazebrook. After cruising the shoreline from Sanbornton to Belmont, the boats gathered back at the Pot Island for the awards presentations.

This year the Cunninghams once again took top prize. The Ceplenski-Murphy family came in a close second with their colorful boat depicting people about to embark on their journey around the world.

Bormes has already decided on next year's theme, which will be "Favorite Television Shows - Past and Present." She is also looking for volunteers to assist in the parade and said anyone with questions or who would like to take part in the 20th Lake Winnisquam Boat Parade can contact her at 528-4841.

Martin Lord Osman
Littleton Chmber
Varney Smith
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