Leaping dogs highlight of Venetian Festival

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published July 30, 2014

 Jon Batt, of West Bloomfield, and Teddy Bear, his labrador, compete in the Ultimate Air Dogs competition July 20 at the Nautical Mile Venetian Festival.

Jon Batt, of West Bloomfield, and Teddy Bear, his labrador, compete in the Ultimate Air Dogs competition July 20 at the Nautical Mile Venetian Festival.

Photo by Donna Agusti

ST. CLAIR SHORES — With an eye to bring summer fun to the Nautical Mile, the Venetian Festival was a hit with residents and visitors to the city alike.

Nautical Mile Merchants Association Chair Donna Flaherty said she was delighted with the festival.

“I want to praise our volunteers. I could never chair this if I didn’t have volunteers,” she said.

The highlight of the weekend, she said, was the Ultimate Air Dogs.

“That was fantastic. The community was ignited.”

Venetian Festival organizer Geri Hofmann said that at least 1,000 people showed up to watch each of the dog shows July 20.

Plans are already getting underway for next year’s event, which Flaherty hopes to expand back to a week-long festival like it was in the 1990s. Flaherty said organizers will be diving back in this fall.

Wandering the Nautical Mile July 19, Dana Hill, of St. Clair Shores said she was enjoying herself, despite the damp weather.

“I think it’s pretty good,” she said. “My niece is enjoying it … the bounce house and she got her face painted.”

“I think we would have more people walking around if we had better weather,” Hofmann said July 19, but later she said she saw more people walking around, even with umbrellas, than she would have thought.

The entertainment at the Jefferson Yacht Club — which was open to the public for the weekend — was a big hit, Hofmann said, as was the fishing at the Nine Mile Boat Ramp July 20.

Bob Baulch, of St. Clair Shores, said he also enjoyed the JYC barbeque.

“It was great. It’s great for the city,” he said. “There’s so much to see in the city.”

And vendors, like Safie Specialty Foods Co., said they were happy to be included in the local event.

The company’s owner, Mary Safie, lives in St. Clair Shores and wanted to support the community, said Pat Morenci of Chesterfield Township, who was manning the table with the business’s pickles, peppers and more.

“People see our products in the stores a lot,” Morenci said. “But this gives them a chance to taste it.”

In the children’s tent, along with a face painter and several vendors, was Mike Kiefer, of St. Clair Shores, with the Order of Alhambra, and several youth making balloon creations to give to passing kids.

“We are a Catholic organization that works with kids with developmental disabilities,” he said.

Bringing the youth out to help at the festival, he said, is a way “to encourage kids to get involved in volunteering.”

Ten-year-old Cailey Clark, of Eastpointe, said it was a great place to be.

“It’s fun ‘cause there’s a bunch of different things going on and you can meet other people,” she said.

Sadiekins ribbons and bows was also looking to make its presence known in the area and jumped at the chance to be part of the festival.

“This afternoon’s been good,” said owner Sarah Schultz, of Clinton Township. “It’s been fun to meet the little kids.”

Ruthie Kiefer, of St. Clair Shores and owner of Pez Pet accessories, agreed.

“You’re bringing more people into the community. St. Clair Shores has a lot to offer.”

Linda Ferrell, of St. Clair Shores, said she and some friends were excited to take part in the Crawl the Mile wine and beer pub crawl July 18 but they had a mixed experience.

Captain Jack’s, Pat O’Briens and Fishbone’s were wonderful stops, she said, but other locations on the crawl were not as much.

“Some of the establishments knew what was going on and they were very accommodating. Some of them just did not know,” she said. “How do you not know you’re participating?”

She said she loved the idea but just hoped that it would be better in the future.

Hofmann said some restaurants on the crawl were excited to get new customers from the event, however. Seventy people participated in the crawl, 40 of whom had never been to some of the restaurants before.

“I heard from Steve’s (Backroom) and he was thrilled,” she said.

And with this being the first year of a much bigger festival, some things were disappointing but others a hit, she said, including the dog show on Sunday.

“It was packed,” she said of the parking lot at Blossom Heath where the jumping contest took place July 20. “People camped out there for the day. Kennels came out with their dogs.

“It was fun, it was really cute.”

Have a suggestion for next year? Organizers are looking for feedback on their Facebook page.