|Winterfest Boat Parade in Ft. Lauderdale|
In Florida, we can do Santa, but cold weather, snow and sleigh rides aren't ever going to be part of the picture. We do have our tree lighting ceremonies but even more fun, we light up the boats and marinas and make it an all-out party!
Referred to by many locals as the Ft. Lauderdale Christmas Boat Parade, the Winterfest Boat Parade has been a South Florida tradition since 1970 and is the most watched boat parade in the world. In fact, the USA Today lists it as one of the top 20 parades in the world. It is the largest live event in the state of Florida and the seventh largest spectator event in the country!
Seminole Hard Rock, one of the event's primary sponsors, calls the Winterfest Boat Parade "The Greatest Show on H2O." Yachts, cruisers, motorboats, rowboats - you name it - all decked out in Christmas lights, stream through the intracoastal waterway. Owners of the homes lining the shores are encouraged to participate, too, making for a truly dazzling display of lights. Several celebrities usually are part of the floating parade and quite a few of the yachts have musical acts performing.
Beginning on the New River in downtown Ft. Lauderdale, the procession of boats slowly makes its way up the intracoastal, finishing at Lake Santa Barbara in Pompano Beach. Folks can purchase grandstand tickets for the event or simply watch it from the shore of the many waterfront hotels, apartments and bars or restaurants lining the water. Stake out your spot early; though, it gets quite crowded. In fact, more than 1 million people are expected to be in attendance again this year!
Anyone with a boat can join the parade for as little as $35 and, for the landlubbers, the Winterfest Black Tie Ball is Fort Lauderdale's biggest social event of year. More than 250 items are up for bid at the ball's silent auction from 6 - 8 p.m. along with dinner and dancing from 8 to midnight. This year, guests will be treated to a special performance from the Broadway musical, "Motown."
Other events tied to Winterfest include the Winterfest Fantasy Boat Student Art Contest, featuring works of art from the area's 3rd, 4th and 5th graders, the annual Glam-a-Thon, which benefits breast cancer research and a sponsors-only event - the Winterfest White Party (everyone dresses in all white).
For a look at the tradition, what it means to the area and, of course, a view of the spectacular lights, check out the following video put together last year by one of the event's sponsors, Ford Motor Company: