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St. Clair Shores

July 15, 2013

Venetian Festival is back

Nautical Mile event returns

By Kristyne E. Demske
C & G Staff Writer

» click to enlarge «
Car enthusiasts check out John Ambrogio’s 1927 Ford Model T as he sits behind the wheel during the 2012 Aquafest Car Cruise and Bike Night. The 75-year-old Roseville native had had the car for 54 years.

ST. CLAIR SHORES — Meant to evoke waterfront entertainment synonymous with Venice, Italy, the Nautical Mile Merchants Association has resurrected the Venetian name for its summer festival.

The mid-July event had been called the Venetian Festival more than a decade ago, but changed to Aquafest five years ago. This year, Nautical Mile Merchants Association President Donna Flaherty said they decided to return to the prior name.

“We have a lot of events developing,” she said. “I’m really excited about this festival this year.”

She said many volunteers have come together to make this year’s event, set for July 18-21 on the Nautical Mile, the biggest they’ve had in years.

Kicking off the Venetian Festival July 18 is the 8th annual Car Cruise and Bike Night, held from 6-9 p.m., with headquarters at Mastro’s Ice Cream.

“We just want people to come out, park their cool car or bike along the Nautical Mile,” said chairman Rob Schoenmann. “They do cruise between Nine (Mile) and 10 Mile on Jefferson and they line up at the participating businesses along the Nautical Mile.”

He said there is no cost to participate, but they will be selling merchandise and possibly have raffles to benefit the Save Our South Channel Lights organization.

“Over the years, it’s been a very laid-back event,” he explained. “It just seems like we always get a good presence of classic cars and bikes, and they hang out for the three hours.”

Schoenmann, who used to own a Nautical Mile business and now owns Advanced Media Solutions web development company in Clinton Township, said the objective is to get more pedestrian traffic to the Nautical Mile.

“The businesses along the Nautical Mile just really love it because it’s good for traffic,” he said. “If it’s a really nice day, it’s definitely into the hundreds.

“You usually fill up Mastro’s Ice Cream and across the street, and I know that Ram’s Horn usually does a full parking lot.”

The next night, the Kolping Center, 24409 Jefferson Ave., opens its doors from 7-11 p.m. for “fun-raising” and fundraising for Wigs 4 Kids with Casino Nights July 19 and 20, said Jean Russo, the owner of A Touch of Fruit.

“We have a company that sets up a casino night with tables for … blackjack, Wheel of Fortune — which we have our own Vanna White … raffles and refreshments,” Russo said. “The major recipient is Wigs 4 Kids and they use all their volunteers to join the Nautical Mile in putting this event on.”

Russo said they have chosen Wigs 4 Kids as the Casino Nights beneficiary for the past few years because “they’re a St. Clair Shores institution” and give so much back to local children.

“People who like to have fun and still reward a group like these children, who need funds so badly, that’s why we do it,” Russo said. “We do it to support the children, primarily.”

Admission is $5 and includes $2 in chips; there will be a cash bar and refreshments. Russo said they’re also selling tickets for a raffle for a diamond bracelet from Maloof Jewelry and Gifts; a “Dine the Mile” package of about $800 worth of gift certificates to restaurants in the Nautical Mile Merchants Association; and a Four-4-Fore golf package of 18 holes of golf, with carts and dinner, compliments of the St. Clair Shores Golf Course.

Raffle tickets are $5 each or five for $20 and are available at Wigs 4 Kids on Harper Avenue, Steve’s Backroom or Gifts Afloat on Jefferson Avenue. The raffle prizes will be drawn at 10 p.m. July 20 and tickets are also available at the door.

“She (Russo) put it together six years ago. The following year, she expanded it to two nights and she chose Wigs 4 Kids as the charity and it’s been very successful,” Flaherty said.

Events will begin bright and early July 20 with the third annual Shores-Pointes Adventure Tri-athlon starting at Blossom Heath Park. Children can get in on the fun with activities from 12 to 4 p.m. at Mastro’s Ice Cream, including a bounce house, interactive T-ball and a basketball challenge, plus snow cones and cotton candy.

And the newly-formed Nautical Mile Yacht Club is hosting a Dinghy Poker Run starting at 10 a.m. at Ken’s Gas Dock in the Michigan Harbor Marina on the Nautical Mile. Participants will be able to cruise on their dinghies between the Nautical Mile restaurants and gas docks to try to get the best poker hand possible to win.

Visitors can also see work from the Detroit Artist Association and various vendors on the south side of Jefferson Beach Yacht Sales.

“We’re trying to make as many events for the whole family,” Flaherty said.

The whole family can get working to compete for the best-lit boat in the area, as well, she said. Judges will cruise Emerald City, Harbor 9, Jefferson Beach Marina, Miller Marina and Shore Club Marina around 9 p.m. July 20 for the Venetian Night of Lights in the Marinas competition. Boaters are welcome to decorate their boats with lights and anything else that will draw attention to compete for 200 Nautical Mile Dollars. Second prize will win 100 Nautical Mile Dollars and third place will take home 50.

“They spend them in the businesses, so we’re promoting our own,” Flaherty said. “The whole thing is to benefit our Avenue.”

The Venetian Festival will wrap up with a sunrise service at the waterfront gazebo at Jefferson Beach Marina, led by the Rev. Jill Wrubel at 8 a.m. July 21.

Throughout the weekend, Nautical Mile restaurants will have live entertainment and specials, as well, Flaherty said.

“We’re trying to promote all of them,” she said.

For more information, visit www.nauticalmile.org.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Kristyne E. Demske at kdemske@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1041.