Boaters launch a flotilla Sunday on Clary Lake in Jefferson to celebrate the Fourth of July. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

JEFFERSON — Abe Chase felt a certain sense of obligation Sunday about putting his boat into the water at the state boat launch at the east end of Clary Lake in Jefferson.

The cool weather and rain felt more like the fourth of May than the Fourth of July, but that won’t stop a determined boater.

Chase and his son, Saunders, trailered their motorboat to the lakeshore Sunday to take part in the Second Annual Clary Lake July Fourth Boat Parade. Despite the cool and rainy conditions, the Chases joined about a dozen other watercraft decked out in red, white and blue and flags, to make a circuit around the northern Lincoln County lake.

“I’m part of the Clary Lake Yacht Club, so I have to be out here,” Chase said.

After more than a year of pandemic-related cancellations, closures and social distancing, people across central Maine have been both eager and a little cautious about organizing the traditional celebrations that bring together friends and family to mark the 245th anniversary of the country’s separation from the British empire.

A year ago, the inaugural boat parade went off under sunny skies, drawing boats of all kinds — kayaks, canoes, sailboats, motor boats and pontoon boats. Under public health restrictions in effect during 2020, a boat parade was an ideal way to celebrate while keeping one’s distance. Many other traditional celebrations, like parades with marching bands and floats, as well as fireworks displays, were canceled because of limits imposed on public gatherings.

Boats assemble Sunday to cross Clary Lake in Jefferson. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

This year, Fourth of July celebrations are back. In some cases, they’ve been scaled back a bit, either because it wasn’t known in the planning stages whether public health restrictions would be lifted, or out of a lingering concern about mass gatherings when not everyone has been vaccinated against COVID-19.

In 2021, it wasn’t the pandemic that’s raining on parades, it was actual rain.

On Saturday, the Monmouth Fire Department opted to postpone the annual beach party and fireworks on Cochnewagon Lake until July 10. The still-wet conditions Sunday prompted other communities to modify their celebrations on Sunday. In Winthrop and Augusta, the fireworks were on, and the annual parade in Augusta was expected to take place at 4 p.m. However, other events in the capital city were canceled due to the weather.

To prevent people from assuming that the Clary Lake parade would be canceled too, organizer Shanna Pease notified all interested parties at 9 a.m. that the parade would happen, rain or shine.

Not long after the Chases floated their boat, Todd Brackett and Martha Takatsu, from Nobleboro, also joined the parade, before meeting friends who have a camp on the lake.

The boat didn’t have a cover, but Brackett, the Lincoln County sheriff, and Takatsu had rain gear to keep themselves dry.

“People are crazy and they do crazy things,” Takatsu said.

Boats assemble Sunday to cross Clary Lake in Jefferson. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

“It’s Independence Day,” said Brackett, who had been in charge of buying the holiday decorations for the boat. “You have to celebrate.”

By 2 p.m., at the start of parade, most of the boats were circling aimlessly, waiting to queue up for the hour-long cruise around the lake as a few stragglers joined the group.

Then, after broadcasting anthems both unofficial — John Denver’s “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” — and official — “The Star Spangled Banner” — the decorated vessels headed west across the water together.

Even though the skies opened just as the Chases were about to slide their boat off its trailer, they were not deterred.

“Last night, when I was out here, when I stepped in the water, the water was warmer than the air,” Chase said. “It was like bath water.”

The only thing that would’ve kept the Chases off the water, they said, was thunder and lightning.

 

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