Event organizer estimates more than 300 boats participated
Hundreds of boaters from around the area met at Port Edward Restaurant in Algonquin to take part in a boat parade in support of President Donald Trump on Sunday, with some traveling as far north as McHenry, the event organizer said.
Barrington Hills resident Steven Riggio said the idea for the Trump-themed boat parade came from a discussion he was having with fellow members of "Fleet 17," a local boating group.
“We were just talking about how our president was getting beat up and said, you know, why don't we just grab some flags and do a little flotilla to just let him know that there are some people out here that really do appreciate what he's doing,” he said.
The initial conversations took place over the summer, but Riggio said he wanted to organize the event as close to the November election as possible while still planning it before it got too cold.
After posting a few call-outs on Facebook, Riggio noticed that the event had been picked up by seven different boating clubs in the area.
“It just started to grow quickly,” he said.
On Sunday morning, boaters began gathering in the no-wake zone in front of Port Edward Restaurant in Algonquin at 10 a.m. and Riggio said there were at least 100 boats by 11 a.m.
At 11:45 a.m., three former Navy pilots flew over Port Edward in formation as part of the event, Riggio said. At noon, event organizers let off a loud horn to signify the start of the parade and the boats began heading north.
After the parade began, Riggio noticed that someone had painted the grass of a nearby sledding hill in Fox River Grove to read "Trump 2020," which he said added to the spirit of the event.
Fox River Grove Parks Department officials were not quite as enthused when they found the political message on village property Sunday morning, Village President Robert Nunamaker said in an interview Monday.
"It did cause the parks department to have to go out and mow the grass down and wash off most of the paint," Nunamaker said. "Obviously, there is a cost to the village to go out there and clean that all up.... They had to use high-powered hoses and brushes to take most of the paint off."
The message was likely painted late Saturday night or early Sunday morning, he said. The act violates a village ordinance against defacing public property with political messages and is considered a class A misdemeanor, he said.
The village is working with the Fox River Grove Police Department to look into the incident further and will be reviewing nearby surveillance footage. Nunamaker asked anyone with knowledge of who might have painted the message to reach out to the police department.
Nunamaker said he has no reason to believe the incident was connected to Sunday's Trump boat parade, adding that the two events were likely "just a coincidence."
As the boats proceeded along the river Sunday afternoon, Riggio recounted seeing "thousands of spectators lining the shores" of the river. Many spectators held signs or flags of their own and cheered as the boaters drove past, he said.
“The event turned out to be a huge success, much further than I would have ever imagined it to be,” Riggio said. “I was overwhelmed.”
Riggio said he asked a homeowner who lives on Haegers Bend in Algonquin to sit out and count the boats as they drove and they reported back that there were 316 boats in total. More boats joined the parade along the way, so Riggio said he thinks the real count is "likely even higher."
The McHenry County Sheriff's Office assigned a marine unit to monitor the event and did not report any incidents, Deputy Sandra Rogers said in a statement.
Four Fox River Grove police officers were also on duty and monitoring the event along with the Cary Police Department and the sheriff's office, Fox River Grove Police Chief Eric Waitrovich said.
The boat parade ran from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. for some, but others dropped off at riverside bars and restaurants like the Broken Oar in Port Barrington or Kief's Reef in McHenry, Riggio said.
Sunday's event was the second Trump-inspired boat parade this month, with the first being organized on the Chain O' Lakes on Sept. 6, according to earlier reporting by the Northwest Herald.