Fools' Flotilla: a Madison tradition

Sunday, June 9, Madison WI, 9:30 – noon

Make your grand entrance to the Marquette Neighborhood Association’s Waterfront Festival by floating with hundreds of other fools from Tenney Park to Yahara Place Park on the Yahara River in Madison, Wisconsin. 

Bring your own boat (sorry, no innertubes), PFDs, costumes and decorations. This is a free event.

Parking/load-in begins at 9:30 a.m. Parade begins at 10:30 a.m.

For boaters, registration with a signed safety agreement is required either online or in person before the event. Those who pre-register by June 7 are entered to win a Happy Camper prize pack from Fontana Sports. 

Where do I park for the event?

If you’re boating and starting at Tenney Park

Parking for boaters at the start of the parade will be very limited due to construction in the area.

River Alliance of Wisconsin does not offer a shuttle to Tenney Park.

If you’re boating and starting at Yahara Place Park

Parking at the end of the parade and boating up to Tenney Park is a great way to participate! Be sure to get an early start, park in the Marquette neighborhood, and paddle up the Yahara. The parade begins at 10:30 a.m. and it takes about 45 minutes to paddle from Lake Monona to Tenney.

Boat take-outs at Yahara Place Park are at the corner of Riverside Dr. and Yahara Place OR behind the festival at the corner of Yahara Place and Dunning Street. See the map below for details on end-of-parade boat parking.

If you want to watch from the shore

Parking in the neighborhood throughout the Yahara River parade route is welcome. Bridges and bike trail underpasses can get crowded. The parade starts at 10:30 a.m. and it’s smart to find your spot early.

Please be courteous and make room for those with mobility challenges and bicycle riders using bike paths. Some more accessible spots are under the E. Washington Bridge and a fishing pier just south of E. Main Street.

Do I need to bring my own boat?

This is a BYO boat event.

While River Alliance doesn’t provide boats for this event and most rental outfitters aren’t open at the start of the parade, we’re happy to see lots of paddlers and families participate with their own watercrafts. We’ve seen very creative costumes and canoe, kayak and paddleboard decorations too! Just no innertubes (sorry, insurance reasons).

Why are there pontoons? I thought this was just for paddlers?

We all share the river.

There are pontoons that join us for the parade. Some pontoons carry musicians who volunteer to provide lively music. Other pontoons in the event carry Madison School & Community Recreation (MSCR) volunteers. Other motor boats may be present in their journey between Lake Mendota and Monona through the Tenney Locks. We all share the river.

We ask that all paddlers give motor boats lots of room in the center of the river where it’s deepest. Give pontoons with bands lots of room too. Motor boats also have exhaust that could bother some paddlers. Watch for volunteers in safety vests who will let you know where to paddle safely (or when to get out of the way!).

Can I bring my dog?

Well-behaved pups are welcome. The boat parade has lots of activity and some live-band noise, so highly reactive dogs might not do well on the float. You know your dog best, so please keep both human and canine safety in mind. Dog and human safety vests (PFDs) are encouraged.

The Marquette Neighborhood Association asks Waterfront Festival participants NOT to bring dogs to the park.

Where do I take out my boat at the end of the parade?

Two take-out spots: end of Yahara and behind the festival

There are two designated take out places at the park: at the mouth of the river (volunteers will help you around the big rocks and getting your boat out of the water) and the east end of Yahara Park on Lake Monona a landing area where Dunning St. ends.

At both spots, there is dedicated space on the grass to leave your boats. Boat take-out is not allowed along the park between the two ends during the festival. Festival activity and safety of attendees is a priority.

  • Picking up boats by car at Yahara Place Park? You may park briefly on the street of Yahara Place Park at the Riverside Street end or Dunning Street end for boat pickup. These two spots align with the in boat take out and grassy parking areas.
  • Plan for extra activity in 2024 as the Milkman Triathlon is also happening Sunday morning along Lake Monona. Runners are expected near the river starting at 11 a.m. Please allow for extra time and prepare for traffic.

Where do I put my boat at the festival?

Boat parking is on both ends of the Marquette Waterfront Festival

Fools’ Flotilla participants typically leave their boats in the boat parking areas at the corner of Riverside Drive and Yahara Place OR behind the main stage at Yahara Place and Dunning Street while fetching vehicles. Boat parking is at your own risk.

The neighborhood will be full of cars, bikes and pedestrians plus marathon runners! It’s a good idea to spend time after the Flotilla to enjoy Waterfront’s music, food and vendors before picking up your boat with your vehicle.

Download a map of the Marquette Waterfront Festival (PDF) to see where you can park your boat.

Can I volunteer?

Yes! We would love your help.

We could use helpers at the start of the parade in Tenney Park to set up, direct traffic, answer questions, and clean up. Helpers are needed from 9 a.m. to 10:45 a.m.

We can also use helpers who can direct traffic in the water and keep space between paddlers and pontoon or motor boats. Volunteers have their own kayaks and are strong paddlers. We will provide a yellow safety vest.

To volunteer, email Stacy at [email protected] and let us know if you’ll help on shore or in the water.

Is this a free event? Can I donate to support it?

Fools’ Flotilla is free. We would love your support.

River Alliance is carrying on a long neighborhood tradition because we want people to experience and value their local rivers. The event is fueled by River Alliance staff, board members, volunteers, and our annual business sponsors, and is a part of the Marquette Neighborhood Association’s Waterfront Festival.

You can make a donation to River Alliance on our donate page. Leave us a comment about why you love the Fools’ Flotilla tradition.

If your business can be an annual sponsor of River Alliance of Wisconsin and our events, email Stacy at [email protected] for more information or visit our Ways to Give page to download our annual sponsor information kit.

Still have Flotilla questions?

Ask away!

We’re happy to tell you more. Contact Stacy at [email protected].

Be sure to pre-register for the event online! We will send you emails with more details and weather plans closer to the event.