The place to be the day after Thanksgiving is the 35th Intracoastal Christmas Regatta. Not just a fun display of creatively-decorated vessels, the maritime parade of boats is also a major fundraiser that benefits about 2,500 area children, and even pets.
The boat parade, limited to 30 entries, starts at the Little River Inlet at 5 p.m. and goes south, arriving at Dock Holiday’s Marina at 7 p.m., with about six miles of ideal spots along the route where the parade can be enjoyed.
For months before the event, working through schools, churches and individuals, event organizers have amassed new, unwrapped, donated gifts to make sure every child has a surprise under their Christmas tree. Not leaving out four-legged friends, toys and food for dogs and cats are also donated, and are distributed through local animal shelters.
Gifts can be donated right up until Christmas in specially-marked boxes at area restaurants, marinas and businesses. There are always lots of donations for the younger crowd, but gifts for older children, such as cosmetics for teenaged girls, are especially needed.
Back in 1984, Susie Watson, who is the manager of Harbourgate Marina, her husband Royce and her Uncle Poo McLaughlin remembered a boat parade they’d seen on a trip to Florida, and the seed was planted. That became what is now a decades-old tradition.
The folks who organize the Regatta don’t wait for the holiday season to help area families.
Watson said, “We take care of families all year with clothes, medicine, whatever they need. If a family has a fire, we’re there to help.”
To get involved, visit the Intracoastal Christmas Regatta’s Facebook page or call Watson at 843-249-8888.
Watson said the creativity people show when they decorate their vessels “turns these boats into art.
“We have had everything from Elvis themes to dolphins pulling Santa’s sled and a pontoon boat that looked like a train. People work on them for years in advance.”
Regatta-inspired sweatshirts and T-shirts are for sale at the event, and this year’s winning boat will be next year’s logo.
“The Regatta,” Watson said, is an opportunity to bring recreation to the Waterway, bring a unique event to our area, and most importantly, help our children.”