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July 04. 2013 8:13PM

Canobie Lake parade boats show their true, patriotic colors


The Rev. Robert “Obie” Odierna, board member of the Canobie Lake Protective Association, wore his patriotic colors as he paddled his kayak while serving as a judge in the annual Fourth of July Boat Parade Thursday afternoon. (APRIL GUILMET/Union Leader Correspondent)

It's a parade like no other — one where the word "float" takes on an entirely new meaning.

Suddenly, an air horn blasted in the distance and residents sprung from summer cottages and lakefront homes, cheering and waving American flags and grabbing binoculars.

The 2013 Fourth of July Boat Parade had officially begun.

It's a parade like no other — one where the word "float" takes on an entirely new meaning.

And it's something the folks on both the Windham and Salem sides of the lake look forward to each summer.

According to Bill Schroeder, acting president of the Canobie Lake Protective Association (CLPA), the tradition began sometime in the 1980s, although no one's sure exactly when.

"People just decorate their boats and kind of just show up," Schroeder said, noting that there's been some years where more than 30 boats have glided across the water, all decked out in patriotic finery.

"Some of them join later than others," he added, motioning toward the flag-strewn boat speeding across the lake about five minutes before the parade started.

Canobie Lake is Salem's municipal water source, and while swimming isn't permitted, boats of all kinds are allowed as long as they're not pulling water skiers or allowing passengers to jump off for a quick dip.

This year, 18 decorated boats made their way around the lake, starting off on the Salem side near Rocky Point and Canobie Lake Park and making their way toward South Policy Street, snaking toward their final destination in Windham.

"We see quite a variation in the amount of decorating," Schroeder said. "But everyone always has such a great time."

There were pirate ships and hula dancers, tie-dyed shirts and dancing Santa Clauses and, of course, plenty of red, white and blue.

Perched atop kayaks, three local judges paddled alongside the seafaring parade, taking notes and taking in the many sights.

This year's judges were the Rev. Robert "Odie" Odierna of Salem, his wife, Heidi, and Tracy Johnson of Windham.

Schroeder said board members generally take turns judging boats, with prizes given to the first-, second- and third-place winners.

First-place winners get with a check for $100, while the two runners-up are awarded passes to Canobie Lake Park.

Earning first place this year were Michael and Alyssa Schoenfeld, whose 1960's-themed "Flower Power" boat was decorated to resemble a retro Volkswagen bus.

Dressed as George Washington, Eric Rioux, accompanied by his mother, Gemma Rioux, and passenger Penny Maxner, earned second place with his historical-themed "Beach Bum & HMS Limey" boat.

Dave Silvia's "Christmas In July" boat took third place.

aguilmet@newstote.com


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