Every year, in early December, a parade of decorated yachts and small boats preceded by a Coast Guard escort and a fireworks boat departs Downtown Fort Lauderdale on the New River travels east to the Intracoastal Waterway and travels north to Pompano with crowds along the shore cheering them on.
It has become like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade on the water.
This festive tradition was started way back in 1971 when twenty men and their families decided to decorate their boats and sail the entire length of the Intracoastal Waterway in Fort Lauderdale. With this humble beginning a tradition was born. Intercoastal Realty was one of the first sponsors of the “fireworks” display boat, later a non-profit organization was formed to administer the expanded activities. It soon became so huge that now the activities include a Golf Tournament, Black Tie Ball, Shoreline Decorating Extravaganza, Grand Marshall Reception and White Winterfest Party. Well known celebrities are now the Grand Marshalls and bring with them their aura of celebrity to the parade and to the television coverage it now enjoys.
In 1983, Winterfest began to theme its parades by naming that parade “A Tropical Fantasy”. In 1987, Bob Hope was the Grand Master with an estimated 42 million TV viewers. In 1994, coverage expanded to Chicago, Boston and Atlanta markets—offering 34 million households a chance to watch while 750,000 people saw it live. As it continued to grow, it became the second largest state event by attendance and the seventh largest one day spectator event in the country. By 2004 it was so big that the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino became the title sponsor and by 2011 Winterfest was trademarked! It has become like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade on the water.
The Winterfest Boat Parade is held on the second Saturday in December every year. Over 100 boats, yachts and barges are decked with lights and even fireworks and they promenade for 10-12 miles along the Fort Lauderdale Intracoastal Waterway which hugs the city’s entire coastline. The theme varies so spectators can expect no two celebrations alike. Parties in the homes and condominiums along the Intracoastal are common.
This is always worth the wait and should not be missed!