With just a flick of a switch, the magic happened.
The island at Rotonda West Oakland Hills Marina came alive in a blaze of light and a one-word message:
Believe in the spirit of Christmas.
The beautifully lighted island was the perfect backdrop Saturday for the 13th annual Rotonda West Lighted boat parade. Pontoon boats decked out with lights and Christmas decorations paraded around the marina in what has become a favorite way to usher in the holiday season.
The crowd came early, completely lining the marina area in anticipation of seeing the boat parade.
Meanwhile, parade coordinator Andy Vanscyoc kept getting one unpleasant surprise after another as he tried to organize the boats.
“Five of the boats had to drop out at the last minute because of mechanical problems or other circumstances,” he lamented.
Two of the boats were already in line when they stopped running.
“If it happened earlier, I probably could have fixed them, but it’s too late now. We’ll have to go with what we have,” he said.
That meant shuffling passengers from the out-of-commission pontoons to other boats.
As the parade was ready to start, Andy’s cell phone rang with another complication.
“One of the boats ran out of gas,” he said as he started calling around to find someone who could help.
In record time, the stalled boat was underway.
What people viewing the parade don’t realize is timing is crucial, especially with all the boats in this year’s event.
Skippers had a practice session last week to insure a smooth procession.
“Some boats are coming from the north, some from the south. We need to all meet up at the same time in front of the marina,” Andy explained.
In spite of what he called “a little chaos,” he kept his usual calm demeanor and managed to pull off a coordinated boat parade.
When the island lighted up with it’s message to believe, Andy said he needed to believe in the success of the boat parade.
Shortly after, he and others were amazed to see two of the previously stranded boats somehow were fixed and were able to join the parade.
Believe in the determination of the skippers and the goodness of volunteers who helped make it happen.
While there were a few problems that had to be solved, in many ways it was the best boat parade to date, both in terms of the number of boats and the huge, appreciative crowd.
The festive atmosphere at the marina was conducive to renewing old friendships and making new ones while people enjoyed cookies made by Rotonda West Woman’s Club members and refreshments provided by the Hills Restaurant.
Santa Claus, better known as Gary Gullotta, said he was having as much fun as the kids.
It was so successful that even before the boats left the marina, some came to say they wanted to be part of next year’s parade. It made one or two want to buy a pontoon boat; others said they would decorate a kayak.
Newcomers Rita and Larry Lopienski said the boat parade proved to them that the best word to describe Rotonda West is “fun.”
That’s why some call it “Ro-fun-da.”
Next Saturday, the fun will be the Rotonda West Community parade starting at 2 p.m.
There’s always something fun to do in the community.