Floating Holiday Memories

Flotilla chair continues local tradition

Brown Story

One thing everyone can be thankful for this year is the return of the North Carolina Holiday Flotilla, a local tradition dating back to 1983. This year’s lineup is sure to be a hit as the Flotilla will debut a fresh look thanks in part to Flotilla Chair LINDA BROWN’s hard work.

“The Flotilla was started when MARTHA LEE and a small group of locals decided they wanted to have a lighted boat parade,” Brown says. “The Blockade Runner owners were interested, and the hotel became ‘Flotilla headquarters.’ Over the past 38 years, there have been many different chairs and committee members. I am thankful for the hard-working committee that supports me in my role.”

Brown oversees all aspects of the Flotilla and each committee member has a specific role. Work includes coordinating the publicity, permits, insurance, boat entries, vendor entries, awards ceremony, Captain’s meeting, door-to-dock decorating contest, fireworks, transporting fireworks to Bird Island, merchandising, working with the Coast Guard, responding to inquiries from the public, obtaining sponsoring and funding, and more.

The 2021 Holiday Flotilla is a sort of comeback after last year’s scaled-down celebration due to the pandemic. “We did introduce a Door to Dock decorating contest last year to keep the Flotilla name alive and to at least give folks an event to enjoy with their families in their own boat or on the Carolina Runner docked at the Blockade Runner Resort,” Brown says. “It was a huge success.”

To further celebrate the return of the Flotilla, the committee decided to take some time to rebrand the event and debut a new look.

Ned Leary Flotilla

Photo by Ned Leary

“We have a new website, new logos, new committee members, new banners around town and a whole lot of new merchandise to introduce to the community and its visitors,” Brown says. “This year will see a return of the Festival in the Park with the children’s inflatables, the classic car show, the food vendors, the arts and crafts vendors, a display by the US Coast Guard and bands performing on our Event Stage for four hours.”

The Door to Dock Decorating Contest has been permanently added to the festivities and the docks will be lit each night from 5-9 p.m. from November 26 through the first of the year.

“We are having a kick-off party in our sound side tent at the Blockade Runner Resort on Friday night which includes all dock entries and their guests (as well as) invited sponsors and friends. The boat parade will begin at 6 p.m. on Saturday, November 27 followed by our Zambelli fireworks show. All sponsors are invited to watch the show from our private viewing area and enjoy nibbling on some great food. There will also be a Captain’s breakfast on Sunday to announce our winners.”

The port city has so many wonderful advantages, and traditions like the Holiday Flotilla are beloved by residents as well as visitors.

“I believe this event is important in many ways,” Brown says. “It brings a lot of visitors to our beach who shop in our stores, dine in our restaurants, stay in our hotels and motels, rent homes and condos, and support all of our businesses during our shoulder season. It is also a tradition for many families. I love to hear the stories from residents talking about their children growing up with the Flotilla, moving away to pursue their careers, but always coming home for the Flotilla on Thanksgiving weekend.

“Memories are made and traditions continue year after year. I have no doubt that this year’s Flotilla will be very successful. In 38 years, we have not had one single Flotilla that has not been successful, and we expect that tradition to continue for years to come. It is a free family weekend filled with activity and making memories for a lifetime in Wrightsville Beach!”

For more information visit the website at www.ncholidayflotilla.org, or call at 910-256-2120.

To view more of photographer Aris Harding’s work, go to arisharding.com.

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Categories: Culture