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Cultural Festivals
31st Annual North Carolina Holiday Flotilla: A Thanksgiving Tradition

Named one of the Top 20 Events by the Southeast Tourism Society in 2013, the North Carolina Holiday Flotilla weekend, a coastal Thanksgiving tradition, returns to Wrightsville Beach, Nov. 27-30.

Celebrating a 31-year run, the North Carolina Holiday Flotilla attracts 50,000 visitors to its culminating event, a maritime parade featuring thematically decorated power yacht and sailboat floats. The spectacle, reflected in the Banks Channel, glitters with thousands of twinkling lights.

Located directly on the parade route, sponsor and host hotel Blockade Runner Beach Resort launches the weekend with a gala, Thanksgiving Day feast for early arrivals. Soundside, Cape Fear Naturalist Captain Joe Abbate navigates local waters guiding Masonboro Island, Harbor Island and Sunset Cruises for the family.

Friday brings Santa Claus and the annual Tree Lighting Ceremony to Wrightsville Beach Town Hall Park. Children anxiously await, list in hand, for a personal audience with St. Nick. At 7:00 p.m., The Embers - Featuring Craig Woolard, headline Atlantic Marine's festive Flotilla Launch Party, including dancing, hors d'oeuvres, a cash bar and silent auction of gifts from civic-minded supporters.

"One of the hidden gems during flotilla weekend is Saturday's Festival in the Park for the children," said Pres Davenport, Chairman of the Holiday Flotilla board.

From 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., the park is bustling with bouncy houses, slides, climbing walls, the Arab Choo Choo, live blue-grass music, an antique auto show, and, an estimated 100 booths featuring local merchants and arts and crafts vendors. Children will have an opportunity to decorate and submit entries in the flotilla boat-coloring contest, and Home Depot will be on site with wooden boat kits, free for young carpenters. Admission is free for the entire family.

Saturday at 6:00 p.m., a short burst of aerial fireworks will light up the sky announcing the twilight parade of beautifully lit and decorated power and sailing vessels. The flotilla weaves a 4-mile route through Motts Channel, Banks Channel and the Intracoastal Waterway, passing the judges' viewing stand at Blockade Runner, all competing for $10,500 in cash prizes. A panel of judges, including John Boy, of John Boy and Billy's Big Show, carefully select the winners. Text voting continues this year, with the Crowd Favorite and People's Choice Awards determined by spectators.

Immediately following the flotilla, a stunning 21-minute, 4,000-round fireworks display illuminates the night sky, showering the waterway with sound and color. "We have a long show by Zambelli International, one of the most reputable fireworks companies in the world," said Davenport. "We're able to put on a really impressive display that rivals or surpasses most July 4th shows. Most shows are 15 minutes. That additional five to six minutes puts a great cap on the weekend with an impressive fireworks finale."

"Another thing we're really excited about this year is the fact that the Surfrider Foundation has volunteered to help clean up the waterway and beaches the morning after the fireworks show, to make sure the debris is gone and we are good stewards of the environment," said Davenport.

Flotilla website:
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