Oh, those Venetian Nights!

There was a time when even sentimentally challenged slobs like me thought a gondola ride in Venice sounded romantic, but that was before I learned how polluted that water actually is. I won't bore you with the details, but I trust that Madisonians have taken much better care of Lake Mendota than the Venetians have of their famed Grand Canal.

And that's a good thing because Lake Mendota will again be the site of Dane Buy Local's "Venetian Night Boat Parade." Since the date is Sunday, Sept. 5 (Labor Day Eve), it will be one of our last chances to enjoy a beautiful summer evening before dreams of a Silent Night take hold.

Depending on which press account you believe, either the The Betty Lou or the Grand Mariner will serve as the official boat of Venetian Night, but at last count 22 others have pledged to light themselves up right along with the official craft. Starting at dusk, you can catch the light show on the lake from one of several points along the shoreline: it starts at Maple Bluff Beach and proceeds to Burrows Park, Tenney Park, James Madison Park, the Edgewater Hotel, and finally to the UW Memorial Union.

Speaking of the UW, members of the band, hopefully having left Las Vegas the same way they found it before the Aug. 4 football game, will be banished to a barge to perform for the Venetian Night gathering. Adding to the fireworks will be, well, fireworks launched by Spectrum Pyrotechnics from another barge.

But the brightest lights will be on the parade of boats, and there still are a couple of weeks to register yours at danebuylocal.com. There's a big logistical Pow-Wow for parade participants at the Edgewater on Aug. 17 (5:30 to 6:30 p.m.), and organizers would like to max out at 40 boats.

Who knows? Maybe the judges will identify you as one of the captains that will bring home a trophy from the second annual event. If you're not terribly seaworthy, you can make Venetian Nights your favorite spectator spectacular at one of the prime viewing spots. My personal favorite would be the rooftop of the Edgewater, preferably while draining some Jack Daniels.

Event chairperson Kelly Starr-King, CEO of Drake & Co. and a Dane Buy Local member, would like to see Venetian Nights grow into an event that draws thousands, hopefully hundreds of thousands of visitors to Madison and its Lake Mendota shore. I doubt she ran that idea by Fred Mohs, who no doubt would find that kind of lakefront population explosion highly objectionable, but if Madison is to become the destination our Convention and Visitors Bureau hopes, these are the kinds of ideas that will make it happen.

With the Taste of Madison held that same weekend, Madison promises to be a happening place, but the most brilliant happening will be counted on to raise awareness for member businesses of Dane Buy Local. It's an organization that is spearheading one of the most important societal trends going — sustainability — and the sense of (business) community that comes with it.

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