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Costumed revelers flashed peace signs from atop this 1960s-themed boat, owned by Michael and Alyssa Schoenfeld, during the Canobie Lake Protective Association’s annual Fourth of July Boat Parade. The Schoenfeld’s boat, made to resemble a retro VW bus, took first prize. (April Guilmet Photo)

Boat parade on Canobie Lake a holiday tradition

A blue heron hovered in the cloudless sky as kayak paddles silently cut through the water. For a brief moment, the area around Canobie Lake was dead quiet, save the far-off screams and cheers coming from the amusement park across the lake.

Suddenly, an air horn blasted from off in the distance, and residents sprung from summer cottages and lakefront homes, cheering while waving American flags and reaching for 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 local lake eagerly look forward to each summer.

According to Bill Schroeder, acting president of the Canobie Lake Protective Association (CLPA), the local tradition began sometime in the 1980s, though 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.

It’s a chance for the local conservation association to have a little fun and take a much-needed break from their year-long efforts monitoring water quality and watching over local wildlife, like the pair of nesting swans that recently took up residence on a nearby shore.

Canobie Lake is Salem’s municipal water source and while swimming isn’t permitted in the lake, 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 around counter clockwise 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 the board members generally take turns judging boats, with prizes given to the first-, second- and third-place winners.

First-place winners are presented with a check for $100, while the two runner-ups are awarded passes to Canobie Lake Park.

Earning first place this year were Michael and Alyssa Schoenfeld, whose 1960s-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.

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