This year marks a significant anniversary for one of the biggest annual celebrations on the North Carolina coast, and everyone is invited to come be part of the festivities. Wrightsville Beach, near Wilmington, will be host to the 30th Annual North Carolina Holiday Flotilla the weekend after Thanksgiving, November 29-30.
Visitors to this event will escape the traditional leftovers and crowded malls of that weekend, as they have chosen to simply relax on the beach instead.
The flotilla itself is both a competition and a spectator event. Boats of all sizes can enter and compete to see which has the most impressive, most creative and most extraordinary display of lights and decorations in the parade. The boats are accompanied by an ongoing panorama of fireworks that escalate to a massive display by the end of the evening.
This year’s flotilla is expected to draw a larger and more impressive group of boats, as organizers have managed to upgrade the prizes significantly in honor of the 30th anniversary.
With over $20,000 in prizes and new categories of boats, the competition should be fierce. Most years, the flotilla attracts about 50,000 spectators from around the state and beyond, but organizers expect this year will be an even larger event due to the anniversary.
Schedule of Events
Festivities will begin on Friday evening, starting with the Atlantic Marine Holiday Flotilla Party, held at Blockade Runner Resort. Tickets for this party are $25. It will feature a range of hors d’oeuvres and drinks, while live music will be provided by The Craig Woolard Band.
Saturday’s celebration starts with the Festival in the Park, which runs from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., at Wrightsville Beach Park. This is a family-friendly affair with a large child play area, an antique car show, and more than 100 vendors selling arts and crafts. This is a free event and everyone is welcome.
The pinnacle of the weekend is the Flotilla Boat Parade, which begins at 6:00 p.m. Saturday evening with a volley of fireworks. There is no official spot spectators should gather to watch the parade, but there are a number of vantage points along the parade route within walking distance of the parking lot at Wrightsville Beach.
The parade will be accompanied and followed by a spectacular fireworks show. Spectators are encouraged to vote for their favorite boats, which can then win the People’s Choice or Crowd Favorite awards.
Wrightsville Beach is a popular North Carolina destination, with mild temperatures and year-round beach culture. The island has a wide range of shopping choices, from local boutiques to surf shops and open-air shopping centers.
There are a variety of lodging options available, ranging from high-end beachfront hotels to vacation cottages, condos, and bed and breakfasts. The flotilla is a great introduction to this charming town, but visitors all seem to find so much more to enjoy once they find their way to the island.