If you haven’t checked the calendar yet, you better do so now. It all starts sooner than you may realize. The big day is June 30, not July 4th. That’s just two weeks from tomorrow. And that’s when the 43rd annual Portage Lakes July 4th Boat Parade takes place.

More importantly, the Portage Lakes Fireworks Association, sponsors of the parade, set the deadline for registering at June 22, just a week from today. If you’re planning to enter the parade and vie for cash prizes, that doesn’t give you very long to register.

Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you do, because for a parade, a minimum of 10 boats are required. If that minimum isn’t reached by June 22, sadly there will be no boat parade for the first time in 43 years. And with no rain date scheduled, the boat parade will be canceled.

However, if we do reach that minimum, and I know the good people of the Portage Lakes will see that we do, then the parade starts in East Reservoir near where Kieffer Marine was once located. Be there with your decorated boat no later than 12:45 p.m. It all starts at 1 p.m. and cruises the same route as in past years, ending at the State Park Beach in Turkeyfoot Lake.

You can register your boat to participate for the Saturday parade at Shriner Marine, 533 W. Turkeyfoot Lake Road (State Rte. 619), New Franklin. As in the past, cash prizes will again be awarded to boats in different categories. Awards will be presented after the parade at the State Park beach recreational area in Turkeyfoot Lake.

Since the beginning of the year, I’ve devoted one week a month to the upcoming parade, suggesting different categories and themes to use as you contemplate entering. I’m hoping they helped and I’m hoping we place more boats in this year’s parade than the 20-some that entered last year. Let’s all make an extended effort to enter the parade and vie for the cash prizes. Everyone in the lakes looks forward to this annual event.

One hour later, while the parade is still circling the lakes, the sand castle building contest commences at the Portage Lakes State Park beach on Turkeyfoot Lake, just across the waterway from Dusty’s Landing. Prizes will also be awarded in this contest for the best sand creations.

That brings us to the big show, the $50,000 Portage Lakes July 4th Fireworks extravaganza. Once again, Dano Mundy and his gang promises a show not to be forgotten. Even if it’s just an inkling better than past shows, and specifically last year’s performance, I can’t wait to see it.

Be sure to bring along your portable radios. As in the past, the thirty minute fireworks show, launched from the eastern tip of the state park beach and shot over Turkeyfoot Lakes for literally thousands upon thousands to enjoy, will be simulcast over THE SUMMIT, 91.3 on your FM dial. The rain date, only for the fireworks, is July 1.

This is a family affair, folks, and it’s free. So pack the kids in the car, bring along your blankets and park yourselves on the sands of state park beach. Or launch your boat and watch it from the calm, placid waters of the Portage Lakes. Or accept that invitation to a party along the Turkeyfoot waterfront.

Even better yet, stop by any of the waterfront establishments, such as Howie's On The (Turkeyfoot) Lake, order an ice cold beverage, one of their delicious sandwiches, tune in your radio, kick back, relax and watch the show. It’s now recognized as one of the best, and the largest privately funded fireworks display in the state of Ohio.

Trust me when I say you won’t be disappointed!

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