Plans set for 9th annual Lake St. John Flotilla

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 29, 2001

LAKE ST. JOHN, La. – It’s amazing what a cruise around the lake can set in motion.

It was nine years ago, during a cruise around Lake St. John, that friends Andrew and Michelle Miller and Joe and Felice Fortenberry came up with the idea of having a flotilla parade on the lake. &uot;We just thought it would be neat if we could get everybody together to do something like that,&uot; said Felice Fortenberry, who was also chosen as that first year’s Flotilla queen.

From there, word spread to others with property on the lake and eventually to Laura Godfrey of the Natchez Convention and Visitors Bureau, who Fortenberry said &uot;took the ball and ran with it&uot; in getting the first Flotilla organized.

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&uot;And it’s just grown every year since,&uot;&160;Fortenberry said. But did Fortenberry and friends believe the event would get this big? &uot;We all hoped it would,&uot; she said, &uot;and we hope it continues to grow.&uot;

The Ninth Annual Blessing of the Flotilla will take place July 7 on Lake St. John. An on-the-water parade will begin at 2 p.m. at the north end of the lake, and any vessel that can maintain parade speed can take part.

Previous years have seen boats decorated as alligators, armadillos, a giant beer cooler, a sinking Titanic and a carriage drawn by giant seahorses. Pontoon boats, fishing boats and even jet skis have taken part.

The parade will be led by Concordia Parish Sheriff Randy Maxwell, Grand Marshal Victor Cross and Flotilla Queen Betty Grace Loomis, sister of 2000 Flotilla Queen Norma Jean Price.

Loomis will be crowned and Cross introduced at the Queen’s Ball at The Dock on July 6, with ceremonies starting at 8 p.m. and live music beginning at 9 p.m.

&uot;It’s just a really nice honor,&uot; Loomis said of her new title. &uot;After all, I love the lake – I&160;was born here.&uot;

She said participating in the event is even more of an honor when one considers the good work the Flotilla Committee does throughout the year. That has included helping pick up litter in the area and, most recently, erecting a sign at the entrance to the Lake St. John Committee.

&uot;I never dreamed of it, but I’m honored to be chosen,&uot;&160;Cross said of being named grand marshal.

Cross said he has been living on the lake about 70 years, ever since grade school. &uot;When we first came here, there weren’t but five houses on the lake, and now there’s a house every few feet,&uot;&160;he said.

Vessels will be awarded prizes in three categories – patriotic, non-patriotic and small craft -with the overall winner receiving the 2001 Flotilla Champion Life Ring.

All boats will be eligible for special drawings, including cash drawings for boats passing designated piers, and other prize drawings will be held throughout the event.

Those with vessels competing in the event complete registration forms available at Lakeside Mart, The Dock, Spokane Marina, Lake St. John Grocery, Bryan’s Marine on U.S. 84 near Vidalia, the Louisiana Tourist Center in Vidalia and the Natchez Visitor Reception Center.

They must also pay registration fees of $10. Competitors can turn in their forms and pick up their boat numbers on July 6 at The Dock or Spokane Marina. Late registration will be from 9 a.m. to noon July 7 at Spokane Marina.

Judging for the pier decorating contest will start at 1 p.m. July 7. The first-place pier winner will receive the Pier Champion Life Ring, and entries will also be eligible for door prize drawings.

Those decorating piers for the contest must register, pay a $5 fee and pick up a pier number at Spokane Marina by noon on the day of the event.

This year, a &uot;Flotilla Sale Boat&uot; will be sailing the lake Friday afternoon and Saturday before and after the parade, selling Flotilla 2001 T-shirts, tank tops, drink &uot;huggies&uot; and 2001 Flotilla posters designed by artist Ashlee Hammett.

Items can also be bought in advance at The Dock, The Duck’s Nest, Lakeside Mart and Rami’s beauty salon, Hammett said.

While fun is the main focus of the annual Flotilla event, the event’s organizers also contribute some of the proceeds to churches and charities.