CRA News Blog

The Palm Beach Post



The colorful chaos downtown Thursday wasn’t just because of Fourth of July events; it was also a celebration of Lake Worth’s 100 years.

To show off the city’s 10 decades, and to look forward to a bright future, city officials and residents created 11 rafts designed to represent each time period, beginning with 1913-1922 and ending with 2013-forward.

Then they paraded them east down Lake Avenue to the tune of the YMCA, the Friends theme song, and screams of “Happy Fourth of July!”

A 52-year-old man with blue hair rode his bike up and down Lake Avenue, saying he was Rachel Green from the ’90s television show “Friends,” just “on a bad hair day.” And Mayor Pam Triolo sported a silver-sparkly wig, in hopes of portraying the theme of “Back to the Future.”

At Bryant Park, the rafts were launched into the Intracoastal Waterway for a race to see which was the fastest, or at least, which actually floated.

“It’s something we look forward to every year,” said Lake Worth resident Linda Conrad, 64. This was Conrad’s third year attending Lake Worth’s annual Great American Raft Race. “I come to see everybody, and laugh, and have fun.”

Each raft’s sponsor picked its decade out of a hat at a recent city meeting. The Mango Groves neighborhood, for example, picked the disco era. They hung a disco ball on top of their raft and dressed as the Village People.

“We made everything by hand,” said the team’s captain, Anna Maria Windisch-Hunt, who dressed as an Indian.

Madelyn McKendry and Terry Ralson of the Parrot Cove neighborhood association teamed with Steve Carr, the city’s finance manager, to represent the decade from 1933 to 1942. They decorated their raft with newspaper clippings and books because it was in the 1940s that the residents of Lake Worth raised enough money to build their own library, McKendry said.

“I like that the citizens built it themselves,” McKendry said. “It’s very Lake Worth-ian.”

That was the overall feeling of those who attended the parade and race.

“This is a showcase of Lake Worth,” said former mayor and state Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth. “It gives us an opportunity to showcase what a unique and wonderful place it is. People spend days getting ready for this; there’s nothing better.”

With a history of once announcing the start of the race too early and another time having a teammate sent to a hospital, Clemens was relegated to the sidelines.

It didn’t help. As the rafters finished their sprint from boat ramp to buoy and back, this year’s announcer surprised everyone present by announcing that was just the practice round.

“That was practice?” exclaimed Rusty Zingoni, whose daughter and son-in-law were contestants. “They’re going to be dead with this wind!”

But they all set off again.

After doing well during the practice round, the mayor’s raft, representing the era from 2013 into the future, broke down during the actual race.

“Our rudder got stuck in the sandbar,” Triolo said. It didn’t matter though, she said. “We know how to have fun better than anyone else!”

In the end, it was the South Palm Park neighborhood, as 1963-1972 decade, who were the winners, both in the practice and the actual race.

Wearing tie-dyed, rainbow-colored T-shirts with peace signs on them, the six-member group was ecstatic.