The temperatures were soaring, the music was blasting, and hundreds of boats were gathered in Woodport on Saturday as the annual MarineMax AquaPalooza event drew about 1,000 participants, according the an estimate by the organizers.
"I come every year," said Jeffrey Toci of Lake Hopatcong, who was anchored amid the scores of boats, enjoying the day with a group of friends. "There's nothing like it."
About 200 boats signed up to participate in what is essentially a giant water party to celebrate the boating lifestyle—a party that spans the globe with hundreds of similar celebrations, sponsored by Sea Ray. The Lake Hopatcong event began in 2007, and has grown every year. "It's just been getting bigger and bigger," said Greta Andrews of MarineMax. "We've been really blessed with weather in recent years, too."
Event organizers had a barge out on the water with a DJ blasting music for the gathered boaters, and shuttles went to and from Mason Street Pub in Lake Hopatcong, bringing participants in to grab food and drinks. The day also included giveaways, and MarineMax set up inflatable water toys for kids and adults to climb on and enjoy.
Dale Critchlaw and John Dolan were on one MarineMax patio boat, carefully bringing participants between the Mason Street Pub docks and their boats. "It gets progressively rowdy," Critchlaw said, "but people are having more and more fun."
Lisa Sanchez of Hopatcong has come for the last two years. "It's just this whole gathering, it's a fun scene," she said.
Rina Mickiewicz, also of Hopatcong, has come the last four years, and said she loved seeing fellow boaters gather together. "We're a big happy family," she said.
Enjoying the day with a group of friends, Donna Bisconti of Hopatcong said she was thoroughly enjoying the day. "It's always a party out on the lake, but with the music and the food and the vibes here, it's just really wonderful," she said.
For Andrews, the excitement begins to build in the winter. "I have people come up to me in December and ask me when they can sign up for this year's AquaPalooza," she said. "It's really becoming a renowned event."