The Corteo Acqueo di Carnevale, or what I called the Carnevale Parade of Boats above, is organized each year by the Associazioni Remiere di Voga alla Veneta, the association of all the rowing clubs in Venice (including Mestre). It's the central event of the Festa Veneziana at the beginning of Carnevale: the roughly 24 hours of festivities centered in Cannaregio and oriented toward locals, not tourists. Though, of course, the official Carnevale website is sure to invite tourists to the events.
There seems to be slightly more talk this year about neighborhood-centered Venetian-only Carnevale events. Or perhaps there's the same amount of talk but, as Jen suggested when I asked her about it, it's just that there's more of a political edge to the talk: a bit more defiance in the face of all the powers in the city that seem to think only of tourists and how to shove ever more of them through the city in ever shorter amounts of time--like restaurants in New York City who devote themselves to "turning tables" (ie, hustling diners through dinner to increase the number of seatings per evening).
When the paving stones are overrun with tourists, though, there's always the water.... Venetians can get in a boat and go out into the lagoon. Or, on certain special days such as yesterday, reclaim their own "Main Street"--at least temporarily--from the dense traffic that usually makes the experience of rowing down it far from peaceful. (More on that in the next post.)
Excuse me for repeating something I've written before, but Venetians seem never so content--at least relatively speaking--as when they are on the water. It's what makes the Corteo such an enjoyable sight.
Though I was surprised to see that even for the 30 minutes or so that it took the rowers to process from the Punta della Dogana to the Cannaregio Canal the Grand Canal could not be kept free of water taxis, almost every one of them stuffed with a dozen tourists, that snaked one after another along the side of the corteo at all-too-frequent intervals for my taste--and, I imagine, for the taste of the rowers as well, who, as always, had to deal with their wakes.