One year, Clyde Hicks glued recycled plastic soda bottles to his entry boat in the Great Frederick Float, but the bottles fell off when the kayak hit the water in Carroll Creek.
“It was supposed to be a big mound of trash, but nothing stayed on,” he laughs. “It was a disaster.”
Undaunted, Hicks says the slipup did not deter him from entering the event again this year.
“It’s a hoot people are very creative,” says Hicks about the fundraising parade that accepts no boats with motors, but requires lots of red, white and blue.
“It costs us money to do it, but we can put our name on it ... and it’s fun,” says Hicks, who owns the Trail House outdoor shop at 17 South Market St. with his wife Gerry.
Businesses, nonprofits and individuals participate in the parade that benefits the Frederick Downtown Partnership, which uses part of the proceeds to promote events that will attract people to the city.
The event is free, but the enthusiastic supporters are encouraged to “vote” for their favorite entries by stuffing cash one dollar equals one vote into containers labeled for each entry on each side of the creek.
Nonprofits are allowed to keep half their winnings, and the rest goes to the partnership.
The top three vote getters also receive gift cards worth $200, $150 and $100 to spend at downtown businesses, and a $50 Judge’s Prize gift card goes to the most creative float.
Last year, one boat carrying 4-H students sported a goat, and another was full of Boy Scouts, who obliged each other and willing participants on shore on that hot day with bazooka-size squirt guns.
Also featured were floats with passengers wrapped in various combinations of red, white and blue, including Chic to Chic consignment boutique, which won the Judge’s Prize.
“Streams, banners, flags, outfits, hats it’s a very festive event,” says Downtown Frederick Partnership executive director Kara Norman.
This year, the Great Frederick Float will occur on the same day as the partnership’s monthly First Saturday celebration, when downtown shops stay open late and host live music, art exhibits and children’s activities through the evening.
“We’re combining it into one big event,” says Eli Roth, the partnership’s associate director of promotions and development.
Most of First Saturday’s festivities take place along Market and Patrick streets, as well as the Everedy Square & Shab Row area of town, Roth says.
Staffed booths also will enable visitors to write postcards to a military person serving overseas, which will then be collected and mailed by volunteers at Fort Detrick.
Last year, more than 20 canoes, kayaks, rafts, dinghies, inner tubes and homemade rafts participated, and this year Roth hopes even more businesses, nonprofits and individuals will sign up to float their boats.
The floats enter the water near North East Street, then paddle and propel themselves west in a line to South Market Street, where they turn around and return to the starting point.
The top vote-getter last year was the Senior Recreation Council, a nonprofit offering programs and activities for senior citizens, which launched a red canoe carrying Betsy Ross stitching the Stars and Stripes.
“People clap and cheer you on,” says Margaret Rosato, co-chair of the council’s float planning committee, who paddled the canoe along with co-chair Jack Schrodel.
Rosato says the committee is already working on this year’s entry but, like Hicks, wants to keep it a surprise until the day of the event.
Following the boat parade, at about 8 p.m., organizers will announce the location where residents and visitors can gather for the annual town photo.
There, a photographer will take a picture of the crowd, while the partnership distributes American flags to everyone.
Last year, 500 people gathered for the photo, and this year the partnership hopes a thousand will assemble.
“Anyone and everyone is welcome,” Roth says.