Annual Flotilla set to light up Wrightsville Beach

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Boats are decorated and judged during the parade. Photo courtesy of NC Holiday Flotilla.
Boats are decorated and judged during the parade. Photo courtesy of NC Holiday Flotilla.

Boats will once again display their holiday finest during the North Carolina Holiday Flotilla in Wrightsville Beach on Saturday.

The annual festival, which organizers say can bring nearly 50,000 people to the island for the weekend, features daytime activities at Wrightsville Beach Park and the famous boat parade at night followed by fireworks.

Judges on the dock at the Blockade Runner Resort will score the elaborately decorated boats as they make their way through the Intracoastal Waterway. According to Preston Davenport, this year’s Flotilla chairman, about 20 boats have signed up to be in Saturday’s parade.

In addition to the official judges, festival goers will also get a chance to choose their favorite boat using a text-to-vote feature that organizers introduced last year. Davenport said that last year they received about 12,000 votes from people who texted the number of the boat they liked best to the number 24587.

“It’s a fun way for people to participate,” said Davenport.

This is also the second year that the Flotilla has incorporated a charitable aspect to the festival. According to Davenport, sponsors can choose to earmark some of their money for local school science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs. Last year, the organization gave about $5,500 to to Virgo Middle School in downtown Wilmington. Davenport also said that in addition to receiving funding, the students get to participate with the flotilla in other ways.

“They’re helping to decorate and enter a boat in the parade,” said Davenport, who added that the new aspect of the traditional holiday festival is beneficial for everyone. “We’re also trying to create an experience for our sponsorship partners.”

The Festival in the Park runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The boat parade starts at 6 p.m. and will pass by Wrightsville Beach Town Hall as well as the Blockade Runner Resort and end on the south end of Wrightsville Beach. Visitors can watch the parade from a number of places, including the Banks Channel Bridge, the two mini-parks of South Harbor Island and the western part of Waynick Boulevard.

For more information on the event, visit www.ncholidayflotilla.org.