By Bill Wells
Every year in the spring when the weather turns warmer and the rains subside, thoughts turn to boating in the Delta. Certainly there are many diehard boaters about in the winter months too, but the advent of spring brings them out in force. Most resorts and restaurants that close for a winter vacation reopen in mid – April and opening day of yachting parades are scheduled all around the Delta and San Francisco Bay area.
The term “opening day” was coined in 1903 when the drawbridge in Belvedere was opened to let the “arcs” or houseboats travel from Belvedere Lagoon to their summer location in Belvedere Cove. Since then the various yacht clubs have called the beginning of yachting season in the area “opening day.”
Opening day parades are held all over the Delta during April with major parades sponsored by the Stockton Yacht Club, Sacramento Yacht Club and the San Joaquin Yacht Club. You don?t need to be a club member to participate in a parade with your boat. You contact the sponsoring club to register beforehand and generally there is a small fee to cover administrative expenses.
No boat? No problem! There are many shore side venues where you can watch the parades as they pass by.After the opening day celebrations, boating season begins in earnest. By mid-May the weather is generally consistently warm and there are parties and events all over the Delta every weekend from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Barron Hilton has been sponsoring a fireworks display at Venice Island on the San Joaquin River for more than 50 years. Hilton explains that he originally started setting off fireworks for his children at his duck club. “I began shooting rockets and fountains on the levee for the benefit of my eight children,” he said. “I noticed that four or five boats stopped by to watch, then a dozen the next year, and about three times that number the third year. From there, it just seemed to grow like an amoeba.”
Today, Hilton produces a 30 minute show, choreographed to patriotic music, and fired by professional technicians from Pyro Spectaculars.
Bill Dutra of the Dutra Group provides a barge that serves as a floating launching pad for the fireworks. Even though the fireworks show itself only lasts a half hour, the boats start arriving for the event weeks beforehand. Many people anchor their yacht near the island and use their shore boats to commute to work at their area jobs. The thousands of boats are grouped so that there are pathways to travel between boats and many groups secure the same space year after year.
Later in July local folk head to Village West Marina in Stockton for the annual “Taste of the Delta” event. This is a strolling wine and food tasting showcasing Delta area wineries and restaurants. It is accessible by boat (or car) and is a very popular event, one of the many available to boaters in the Delta. With almost 60,000 acres of water and 1,000 miles of waterways, the Delta fun never ends.
Written by Bill Wells, Executive Director,
California Delta Chambers & Visitor’s Bureau
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