Longtime flotilla tradition returns Sunday at Winona Lake

Flotillas in Winona Lake date back more than 100 years, with this Sunday’s event adding to the history.

Alexander McDonald, president of Standard Oil of Kentucky, financed the digging of the canal in 1902, according to information provided by local author and Grace College professor Terry White. Venetian Nights were held annually along the canal banks under the direction of Captain Pine. “These unique parades of beautiful floats attracted vast crowds to huge bleachers that had been moved into position along the canal.”

Boats donated by the Assembly were decorated by themes, and prizes were awarded. The last pageant was held in 1917, when a near-tragedy occurred, according to White’s information. A float depicting the homes of a drunkard and a temperance man capsized when the drunkard fell overboard and the other passengers all rushed to his aid.

Only lightning will cancel the 2018 Winona Lake Flotilla, as it’s scheduled for Sunday rain or shine. The theme is “Jungle Safari.”

Registration for the parade begins at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at the Winona Lake Beach pier. The parade will line up in numerical order in front of the beach and will begin at 8 p.m.

The parade will proceed in front of judges located at the willow tree across from the pier, and then continue around the lake. Awards will be presented at the pier after the parade.

Entries will be judged on decorations, creativity and overall theme. Prizes will be awarded for first through sixth place, oldest and youngest participant and dash plaques for the first 25 boats registered.

The flotilla committee thanked the following Winona Lake Village businesses for their generous donation to the Flotilla participant awards: The Olive Branch, Boat House Restaurant, Green Earth, Belove, Kelainey’s Ice Cream, Light Rail, Letterwood Stationery, Mucky Duck, SACS&Co., Rocket Fizz and Winona Lake Preservation Association.

The flotilla won’t be the only event in Winona Lake this weekend.

Starting at 8 a.m. Saturday is the Warsaw Breakfast Optimist Triathlon in the park.

Later that day, the Winona Lake Great Fourth of July Celebration starts with the Cutie Contest in the Winona Lake Senior Center. The Prince & Princess Winona is for 3- to 4-year-olds while the King & Queen Winona is for 5- to 6-year-olds. Registration is from 2 to 2:45 p.m. with a 3 p.m. start time. Pageants will run back to back with crowning immediately following.

Registration and lineup for the parade is at 5:15 p.m. at the corner of Columbia Drive and Park Avenue. The parade begins at 6 p.m. This year the theme is “Jungle Safari.”

Parade awards will be at about 6:45 p.m. near the DJ tent. The parade route starts at Columbia Drive, heads north on Park Avenue, west on Administration Boulevard, then south on Canal Street, ending at Fort Wayne Street.

There will be free blow-up activities from 5 to 9 p.m., but inflatables will be shut down during the parade.

A live DJ will play a variety of music on the main stage from 5 to 9 p.m.

At 8 p.m., the “Rockin’ with the Symphony” concert will take place at the Tabernacle Field. It was formerly the Patriotic Pops Concert.

The day will culminate with fireworks over the lake at dusk. There also will be food vendors, face painting, pony rides and more.

Then on the following Saturday, July 7, the first annual Family Fest will be in the park. The event is from 3 to 7 p.m., with dinner at 5:30 p.m. There is no cost to attend for the residents of Winona Lake.