Venetian Fest

Wednesday, August 16th-Sunday, August 20th

(Published August 16, 2006, 8:48 a.m.)

Whatever barca (boat) is your pleasure, your barca da pesca (fishing trawler), motoscafo (motorboat) or barca a vela (sailboat), hang lights from the prua (bow), coperta (deck), l'albero (mast) and poppa (stern) and scialuppa (launch) into the waters of Geneva Lake for the annual ci leggero (lighted) boat parade.

Actually, contrary to popular belief, the lighted boat parade is not an Italian tradition. But Geneva Lake will be lit up on Sunday evening as part of the annual Venetian Festival.

Though the tradition of lighted boats began in Italy for functional purposes of traveling the maze of Venetian canals after sunset, the first lighted boat parade was held right here in the United States on July 4, 1908, in Newport Beach, Calif., according to Newport Beach's Christmas Boat Parade Web site.

The parade, however, was the brainchild of an Italian gondolier, John Scarpa, and Joseph Beek, a developer. They called it the Tournament of Lights.

Their annual Tournament of Lights parade continues in Newport Beach, Calif., and around the world todayoincluding, for the 44th consecutive year, Lake Geneva.

This week kicks off the Lake Geneva's annual Venetian Festival, with the highly anticipated lighted boat parade as its grand finale. The festival began Aug. 16 and continues through Aug. 20.

Spectators will line the shores of Geneva Lake on Aug. 20 at 6 p.m. to watch the Wonder Lake Water Ski Club perform followed by the spectacular sites of the lighted boats as they glide along the lake for the conclusion of the five-day festival. Fireworks will be at dusk.

The Venetian Festival relates to Geneva Lake's signature activities and lifestyle with tons of family fun, a carnival, craft fair, fireworks, tons of food and beverage vendors and a wide daily variety of musical entertainment.

Live music will include Martha Berner on Thursday from 8 p.m.-midnight and The Toys on Friday from 8 p.m.-midnight. Saturday will include Petty Thieves from 2-6 p.m. and Halfway Jane from 8 p.m.-midnight. Sunday's music will be Steppin' Out from 1-5 p.m. and Voices from 7-11 p.m.

"The Venetian Festival has been a fixture in the Lake Geneva area for more than four decades," said Andy Kerwin, president of the Lake Geneva Jaycees. "Each year, we see more and more visitors ... taking advantage of the many attractions the Lake Geneva area has to offer."

The craft fair will be held at Library Park Aug. 19-20 and special wristband carnival ride discount days will be held during the festival.

"Seeing the thousands of smiling faces lining the Geneva Lake shoreline makes all the hard work an afterthought," said Kerwin.

For more information call the Lake Geneva Area Convention and Visitor's Bureau at (800) 345-1020 or visit www.lakegenevawi.com.

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