By Michael P. Walsh
Special to the Voice
A patriotic parade of about 50 boats, American flags blowing in the wind, set sail across nearly 3 miles of the West Haven seaboard Saturday to christen the community’s 100th anniversary as part of the West Haven Centennial Celebration.
The West Haven Centennial Boat Parade, presented by the City of West Haven Centennial Celebration Committee, paid homage to the community’s nautical heritage and publicly accessible beaches on Long Island Sound — the crown jewels of West Haven.
Amid overcast skies, the 1 p.m. procession followed the city’s coastline from the jetty off Sandy Point in New Haven Harbor, known as the West Haven jetty, to the Oyster River in Baybrook, said West Haven Harbor Master Robert Pimer, who charted the course for the committee and helped steer the procession with the Police Department’s patrol boat.
City residents and visitors dotted sections of beaches along Beach Street, Captain Thomas Boulevard and Ocean Avenue for a front-row view of the boating spectacle — many waving from shore, some also waving American flags, as boats paraded by.
“This one-of-a-kind event was a tribute to the enduring history and legacy of West Haven as a true maritime community,” said Mayor Nancy R. Rossi, who joined Pimer at the helm aboard his harbor master boat along with committee Chairwoman Beth A. Sabo, the city’s commissioner of human resources, and Pimer’s wife, Maria.
A fleet of boats of varying sizes participated in the free parade, including motorboats, personal watercraft, and sailboats from the Prospect Beach Fish & Game Club and the City Point, Pequonnock, Waucoma and West Haven yacht clubs.
The procession also included rescue boats from the West Haven, West Shore and City of West Haven Allingtown fire departments.
While the parade launched West Haven’s anniversary celebration, the official centennial kickoff ceremony is slated for Old Grove Park on June 24 — 100 years to the day of West Haven’s incorporation by the General Assembly as Connecticut’s youngest municipality.
The 7 p.m. event will include opening remarks by dignitaries and the recognition of West Haven centenarians, followed by a two-hour show by The Pop Rocks, “Connecticut’s ultimate ’80s experience,” as part of the West Haven Centennial Concert Series. The rain date is June 29.
To coincide with the June 24 kickoff, the West Haven Child Development Center and the West Haven Community House will start distributing centennial diaper bags to the first 100 West Haven babies born on or after June 24 through the city clerk’s office at City Hall, 355 Main St. Call the office for details at 203-937-3535.
Rossi, the committee’s honorary chairwoman, recently announced a six-month series of free concerts, historical exhibits and fireworks — headlined by the long-awaited return of the Savin Rock Festival — to commemorate West Haven’s 1921 birth.
On Saturday and Sunday, the centennial festivities also commenced with a West Haven Historical Society open house exhibit, “From Village to Town,” at the society’s Poli House headquarters, 686 Savin Ave.
The exhibit included maps chronicling the growth and development of West Haven, formerly known as West Farms, from a Colonial settlement in 1648 to its evolution as a separate town in 1921, society President Jon E. Purmont said.