Venetian Night: Chicago parties on the lake

July 25, 2009 (CHICAGO) Venetian Night has been a tradition for 52 years in Chicago. More than a half-million people were expected to clog the lakefront.

Many say that Venetian Night is one of Chicago's great summer traditions, even if it can be a bit corny.

Dancing the to Michael Jackson's "Thriller," for example, isn't easy on solid ground, but some of Saturday's Venetian Night participants were are preparing to do it on a moving boat in a stiff breeze.

"The steps are more difficult than we have ever done before, and so, we're doing our best to do a good job of it tonight. And that, of course, means the more dancing, the greater the chance somebody ends up wet," said boater Rich Hoskins.

The Michael Jackson tribute, or mocking, is just one of the nearly 30 acts that were set to play at Monroe Harbor Saturday night. Boaters worked for months to come up with innovative ideas to match this year's theme, "Hollywood on the Lake."

"We've got the whole crew: MaryAnne, the Captain, Ginger," said boater Dave Fox. "[I'm] the Captain. I've got to make sure they don't go drown."

Ferris Bueller was also set to make an appearance. One of the movie's best scenes will be re-enacted on the water.

"We decided to do the German parade and have six dancers doing the twist and shout and Ferris Bueller and the accordion lady playing in the background," boater Kathy Lesser told ABC7 Chicago.

Thousands were already lining the lakefront Saturday afternoon for the water parade that was set to begins just after sunset. Fifty-two years ago, Venetian Night was born when the late Mayor Richard J. Daley challenged local yachters to host an event that celebrates the city's lakefront and entertains boaters and land-lovers alike.

For anyone interested in the schedule, at 8 p.m., the Chicago Fire Department was expected to do an air-sea rescue demonstration at the Queen's Landing, essentially east of Buckingham Fountain. At 8:15 p.m., the parade of boats begins stretching from the Shedd Aquarium to Monroe Harbor. At 9 p.m., the schedule calls for fireworks synchronized to music.

On another note, a huge banner supporting Chicago's bid to host the 2016 Olympic Games now hangs near the Columbia Yacht Club (at Randolph and the lake) despite many boaters' previous concerns that the Olympic Games would be too great an inconvenience for them. Is it water under the bridge for some boaters now?

Read more on Ben Bradley's blog, 'Going For the Games'.

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