Aqua Fest returns to St. Clair Shores Aug. 17-18

Festival features Ultimate Air Dogs, 5K, fishing derby, craft show and more

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published August 9, 2019

 Ruby Red, a Labrador retriever owned by Janis Lovelace, of Sterling Heights, jumps into the pool during an Ultimate Air Dogs show at the 2018 Aqua Fest. The festival returns Aug. 17-18.

Ruby Red, a Labrador retriever owned by Janis Lovelace, of Sterling Heights, jumps into the pool during an Ultimate Air Dogs show at the 2018 Aqua Fest. The festival returns Aug. 17-18.

File photo by Sarah Purlee

 Gracie Cipriano, left, and Carter Cipriano, both of St. Clair Shores, compete in the 2018 watermelon eating contest. This year’s contest will be held at 3 p.m. Aug. 17 in Blossom Heath Park.

Gracie Cipriano, left, and Carter Cipriano, both of St. Clair Shores, compete in the 2018 watermelon eating contest. This year’s contest will be held at 3 p.m. Aug. 17 in Blossom Heath Park.

File photo by Sarah Purlee

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — Family fun will heat up the Nautical Mile Aug. 17 and 18 when Aqua Fest returns with Ultimate Air Dogs, a party bike, a watermelon eating contest and more.

“We moved it into August because we felt that there were a lot of festivals, a lot of activities, in July,” said Donna Flaherty, president of the Nautical Mile Merchants Association. In August, she said, “It becomes a little quieter here on the Nautical Mile.”

With so many free activities in and around Blossom Heath Park, 24800 Jefferson Ave., the event attracts more people every year. The Ultimate Air Dogs show alone brings in hundreds of people, she said.

This year’s events begin with the 5K Walk/Run Fur Fun, hosted by 4 Paws 1 Heart to benefit medical treatment for abandoned and abused animals. It begins at 10 a.m. Aug. 17 in Blossom Heath Park and includes refreshments after the race.

This is the fourth year that the race has been run, said Diana Rascano, of 4 Paws 1 Heart. She said it typically attracts about 70 people and starts at the pavilion in Blossom Heath Park. Day-of registration costs $30 and will include some veggie dogs and hot dogs, water and fruit, and 4 Paws 1 Heart “swag.”

The race runs around the park, out to Jefferson Avenue and down to Nine Mile Road, to the water and back.

“We like supporting them because it just helps everybody bring in more people,” said Rascano. “It’s a nice partnership with the Aqua Fest.”

More support than ever is needed for 4 Paws 1 Heart, Rascano said.

“The only way we can continue, and we’re going in our ninth year, is with people supporting our events, our fundraisers, and donating, because that’s where the money is coming from,” she said. “You meet a lot of good people who love animals.”

Saturday times for the Ultimate Air Dogs show at Blossom Heath Park are 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. Flaherty said that the jumping dogs are an “amazing” sight to see.

Other Saturday events include a family fishing derby from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Blossom Heath Fishing Pier, hosted by Shorewood Kiwanis.

“That’s an annual event and it’s wonderful,” Flaherty said. “Shorewood Kiwanis, they provide the bait, the rods, the prizes and refreshments, all of that.”

There will also be a craft and vendor expo from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., pony and Clydesdale rides and a petting zoo from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., face painting from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., a Mermaid Princess Party from noon to 3 p.m., and the 14th annual watermelon eating contest at 3 p.m.

Also during the day, from noon to 5 p.m., visitors can take a ride on a party bike and cruise up and down the road on the south side of Blossom Heath to Lake St. Clair. There will not be alcohol served during the rides.

Musical entertainment on tap Aug. 17 includes Surfz Up from 1 to 3 p.m., the Orbitsuns from 4:30 to 6 p.m., and DJ Jamie Victory spinning all day. The Aug. 18 lineup includes Michael Carluccio, the Las Vegas-style “Man of 1,000 Voices,” from 12:30 to 2 p.m., and acoustic duo Nicki and Phil at 2:30 p.m.

All events are free, and the event is supported by the Tax Increment Finance Authority, as well as sponsors that include the Harper Avenue Business Association and the Nautical Mile Merchants Association.

Although the bathroom facility at Blossom Heath Park is still under construction, Flaherty said that Aqua Fest won’t be impacted by the work.

“We can’t help that that happened, but it shouldn’t affect our festival at all,” she said.

The construction area is fenced off, and there is plenty of space for all of the activities west of the area, she said.

On Saturday from 5 to 11 p.m., the Cool City Committee and Lac Ste. Claire Kiwanis will host a Hawaiian luau in Wahby Park with music, a tiki bar, luau games and food from the Drunken Rooster.

“It sounds very exciting,” Flaherty said. “This is the second year for it. It was very popular (last year). They have Polynesian Dancers of Michigan.”

Events kick off Aug. 18 with a pancake breakfast from 9 a.m. to noon, and the pony rides and petting zoo, face painting, and party bike all return for a second day. Ultimate Air Dogs shows are at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m., and there will also be a 3 p.m. comedy magic show, which Flaherty said is “delightful.”

Flaherty said she is grateful for all the support from the community for the event.

“Many, many volunteers, volunteer organizations and sponsors in this community have helped us plan and coordinate this year’s Aqua Fest activities,” Flaherty said. “Aqua Fest is our signature event, and it just keeps getting bigger and better, with more things to see and do for all ages.”

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