Reports from Shriner’s Marine on West Turkeyfoot Lake Road (rte. 619) indicate the minimum number of vessels necessary to hold a boat parade (ten) had been reached late last week with the potential of more than double that amount still to be signed. That doesn’t count the stragglers who always sign on at the last minute each year. If all these registrants enter, it looks as if it may be a bigger parade than last year’s.

That registration deadline is today, June 22, at the close of the business day at Shriner's Marine.

So folks, here we are once again. On the eve of yet another Portage Lakes celebration. It all begins tomorrow with the 43rd annual Antique and Classic Boat Show, now sponsored by the Antique & Classic Boat Society/North Coast Ohio Chapter (ACBS/NCOC) and the Portage Lakes Historical Society (PLHS). But when this all started back in 1976, the antique and classic boats were officially a part of the boat parade.

The first two years I had the antique and classic boats parade along with the others so all could view and enjoy these classic wooden beauties. Additional thinking was, regardless of its age, if the boat wasn’t seaworthy to run the parade route, then it shouldn’t be in a boat parade.

If memory serves me correctly, that theory soon faded by the side as a long time boat master who ran Sandy Beach Marina became involved. It was Ol’ Mr. Portage Lakes himself, Ned Mohrman, who, along with his wife, Ruth, co-grand marshaled the first parade riding the Russ Herwick boat, "Bema Gal," and who eventually became instrumental in helping to promote these July 4 festivities.

Originally from Cleveland, Mohrman was a fixture here in the lakes since the early 1930s. It was he who suggested we dock the antique and classic boats in slips at one of the waterfront restaurants after they have finished parading for others to see and enjoy who may not live along the lakes. That year may have been 1978 and the first place used were Mohrman’s docks along South Main Street in Cottage Grove Lake. That year, more people saw and enjoyed these wooden beauties than before.

There were no Sand Castle Building contests back then, but there were luminaries promoted by Marilyn Straub and Carol Eubanks. These were simply three inch votive candles, set in a white lunch bag with an inch or two of sand in the bottom for weight. The were set every ten feet or so apart along the waterfront. With the candles lit they gave off a soft, warm glow, shimmering against the moving waters of the lakes.

While some waterfront home owners here in the Portage Lakes still continue this tradition during the Fourth of July celebration, others have stopped. Still, I’ve always hoped it would return in full force. To see the thousands of luminaries shining on the shimmering waters was a sight to behold.

As for the fireworks I recall, traveling back to East Reservoir by boat, dodging fired rockets from either side along the Turkeyfoot Channel. To stay safe you almost have to navigate directly in the middle until you passed those points of warfare. To put it mildly, it was a blast!

In reality, the fireworks never started as an organized effort until 1985. Before then, there were shows on the island in East Reservoir and some near the Olde Harbor Inn, as it was called back then. But it was in ’85 when the Portage Lakes Fireworks Association gave birth to this annual pyrotechnic show.

Without a doubt, we have here in the Portage Lakes once of the best, the most originals ways of celebrating the birth of this nation each year. Other communities would love to have what we have. We should all make every effort possible to ensure it continues.

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