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Full Venetian Fest to return this year

Venetian Fest’s Dinghy Poker Run, slated Saturday, July 30, always makes a splash. (Photo by Scott Sullivan)

By Scott Sullivan
Look for Saugatuck’s biggest summer party, Cow Yacht Club’s Venetian Festival, to return full force July 29-31.
Saugatuck City Council Monday approved Cow Hill’s special events application to bring back a full state of fun — fireworks and boat parade included —after Covid-caused scale backs the past two years.
The 501c3 nonprofit “Little Club with a Big Heart” has for years sponsored festivities as a fund-raiser for local families and individuals in need, offering them “a hand up, not a handout.”
Friday’s Venetian kickoff July 29 will return its traditional music and beer tent to Coghlin Park, opening at 5 p.m. Food vendors and a limited bar will also be available.
Guests can stroll and enjoy the park’s lakeside grounds while listening to ’80s-music band Starfarm play sing-along and dancing tunes. This night’s party will end at 11 p.m.
Saturday will bring Saugatuck’s premier sample of aquatic lunacy with a dinghy poker run starting noon from the Coghlin docks. In it, cooler-fortified teams in small boats ply a course ranging into Douglas, picking up playing cards at appointed sojourns. Best hand when it’s over wins.
Larger local boats are invited to decorate up with lights and explore the shores in a semi-fleet staring at dusk. Keep in mind it’s July, so that’s fairly late. Then, when the sky is near fully dark, fireworks.
On Sunday, prizes for the boat parade and voting for the 2023 theme will be announced, time to be determined.
Cow Hill told the city it expects some 2,500 attendees requiring 50 volunteers Friday night. For Saturday’s boat parade, it expects 200 some attendees and needing 10 volunteers.
Also on Saturday, July 30, per council approval, the Saugatuck-Douglas Art Club will hold its annual Village Square Arts & Crafts Fair in the Village Park on Butler Street.
The Club also plans to return its juried Waterfront Arts Fair to Village Square Park, with city approval, Saturday, July 2. Both raise funds for local art scholarships and more.
For more information about this year’s restored Venetian Festival, visit To learn more about the art fairs, visit

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