WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH—The annual NC Holiday Flotilla has been a tradition in southeastern NC for 37 years. Its chair, Linda Brown, has been serving on the board for almost 20, along with Nancy Fae Craig who has helped run the annual boat parade since the mid-’80s.
Normally, the ladies manage to register upward of 30 boats, all decorated with seasonal flair and lit up with multitudes of lights. Boats parade up the Intracoastal Waterway, as judges score the vessels and bystanders vote their favorites in the People’s Choice category. Fireworks end the night with more sparkle, color and shine.
“No fireworks this year, no boat parade, but we think this will be a good addition,” Brown said.
She’s speaking of the Door to Dock Decorating Contest being held in its place in 2020. Like most events in the era of Covid-19, the annual flotilla had to morph into something entirely different. Brown said they couldn’t promote the congregation of thousands of people, who line up annually on the bridges, shore and docks to celebrate the NC Holiday Flotilla.
“So here we are,” she said Friday evening aboard the Carolina Runner — a 40-foot custom-built craft run by the Blockade Runner. The boat took out 16 folks at a time to see the holiday lights tour; it will do so again on Saturday evening.
Folks who can’t make it via boat can view the docks from the comfort of home and vote by texting their favorite dock to 24587 (enter “Dock_” followed by the dock number, i.e. “Dock_1”). Brown also suggests participants walk along Waynick Boulevard and see the docks lit on the Intracoastal shoreline. Judges will vote on Saturday evening, with winners announced Sunday.
The flotilla had over 20 docks enter the decorating contest; a mix of residents and businesses supported the cause for only a $25 entry fee. It’s an idea that Brown said likely will continue as part of the festivities for years to come.
Jimmy’s on the Beach had a DJ spinning tunes to pump up the spirit of the season among a congested waterway on Friday evening. An almost full moon overhead and 70-degree weather made it feel more akin to spring than winter.
“What perfect weather,” Brown said. “Tomorrow night we will have a dock on the tour with 4,000 luminaries.”
Pink-lit flamingoes anchored the end of another dock. Even the youth sailing league from the Carolina Yacht Club got into the holiday spirit and decorated the yacht club’s dock.
Another featured penguins dancing, waving and shouting seasonal greetings as captains honked their horns and passersby waved back.
“That is dock spirit, right there,” Brown said.
(Port City Daily/Video from Chad Keith)
The U. S. Coast Guard Station turned its docked boat into a sleigh, complete with Santa at the reins. According to Brown, it was a last-minute entry.
“The community donated the lights so the Coast Guard could participate,” she said.
“They should get all the awards,” a passenger onboard remarked, his tone bending toward reverence for their service.
“Well, don’t forget to vote,” Brown answered. “Text 24587 with the dock number.”
“What is the Coast Guard’s dock number?” he asked.
“Oh, no! You can’t see the number?” Brown responded.
Every year the flotilla provides numbers for each boat so folks can easily distinguish for whom to vote. This year they provided numbers for the docks.
“I should definitely email all the participants tomorrow and remind them to light up their numbers,” Brown added.
“Yeah, that’s a good idea,” Craig agreed.
“What can I say, it’s a Covid year,” Brown said. “Come hell or high water, next year we will have the fireworks and boat parade back.”
UPDATE: On Sunday, Nov. 29, the Flotilla committee announced the winners of the Door to Dock Decorating contest:
- Best Residential — #20, Anna and Nick Omirly (see video above)
- Best Commercial — #21, Coast Guard Auxiliary
- Best Dock Spirit — #18, The Conley Family
- People’s Choice — #6, Jimmy’s at Wrightsville Beach
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