BELGRADE — A mix of pride, admiration and other emotions stirred in the hearts of the dozens of people standing on the banks of Mill Stream on Wednesday afternoon as a parade of decorated vessels cruised past.

The fleet included several antique motor boats, a kayak powered by foot pedals, and a Jet Ski. Almost all watercraft featured some mix of red, white and blue ornamentation. One pontoon boat was decorated with a large blue banner that declared, “Trump: Make America Great Again.”

But almost no target — including the presidential banner — was too sacred for Dominik Chopur, an 8-year old boy with a Mohawk haircut and a strong left arm who was lobbing water balloons from the bow of a parked motorboat.

From a distance, Dominik asked all the passing boaters if they wanted balloons hurled their way. Many agreed, then fired back with their own water guns as the balloons splashed over their boats or bounced into the stream.

The boy, who lives in Natick, Massachusetts, had come to Belgrade on Wednesday to join one of many Independence Day celebrations happening across the country.

After convening at the entrance to Great Pond, the annual parade of boats made a slow loop up and down the stream, as bystanders waved. With the temperature climbing into the 90s on Wednesday, they were all too happy about the volleys of water that came rushing their way.

The festivity complemented many others happening in Belgrade, including a street parade later in the day and fireworks at night.

Boys on a parading boat spray spectators with water guns during a holiday boat parade on Wednesday on Mill Stream in Belgrade. Staff photo by Joe Phelan

Dominik, whose family had arrived earlier Wednesday in Belgrade, was staying at a property on Great Pond that’s owned by some of their friends. They were watching the parade from a 21-foot motorboat they had taken up Mill Stream that morning and moored on a dock behind the Maine Lakes Resource Center.

“This is Americana,” said Kathleen Fuller, one of their hosts, when asked why she enjoyed coming to the boat parade every year. “When we were coming over, we saw a bald eagle. It was like, this is how it should be on the Fourth!”

Her feelings were echoed by a Massachusetts couple who were sitting on the dock nearby, Janet and Mark Herrick, who have a camp on East Pond, on the Oakland-Smithfield line.

“It’s Americana,” said Janet Herrick, referring to the parade. “It’s lovely. It’s what’s good about our country right now.”

Her husband added, “Honestly, it’s the mahogany boats. I love them.”

Eagles weren’t the only beasts out on Wednesday.

Fuller’s springer spaniel, Ollie, had joined them on their outing, while two golden retrievers leaned over the sides of one parading vessel and, on shore, a Dachsund-Corgi mix named Tino strolled along the dock after going for a dip.

Women on a parading boat spray spectators with water guns Wednesday during a boat parade on Mill Stream in Belgrade. Staff photo by Joe Phelan

“He really likes the water,” said one of Tino’s owners, Gabor Korthy, an Augusta man who’d come to the parade with his partner, Jacqueline LaRochelle. Their other three dogs had “opted to stay at home.”

The Augusta couple and their friend Terry Tatlock were all sitting on the dock behind the Maine Lakes Resource Center. Next year, though, they hope to watch the parade from a different vantage point.

After watching past parades, LaRochelle and Korthy were so amazed by some of the classic mahogany motorboats that they decided to buy their own: a 1946 Chris-Craft Runabout that was for sale in upstate New York. They’re now working to restore the old ride, which has two cockpits and an inboard motor.

“Our target is to be out there next year,” Korthy said. “If you’re here, we’ll wave at you.”

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @ceichacker

 

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