In its 36th year, the Intracoastal Christmas Regatta will be held as always, on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
This year, that’ll be Nov. 28 starting about 5 p.m. at the Little River Inlet and going south to Dock Holiday’s Marina about two hours later.
While the Regatta is a parade of 30 boats that’s fun for the participants and the observers, the Yachts for Tots program that benefits children in the community makes it so much more.
About 10,000 spectators generally gather at various points to view the boat parade, and at least 2,500 children benefit from donations.
Founder Susie Watson says this year’s plans are still being decided on because COVID-19 “has changed everything.” But she does expect an increase in the number of families who’ll need the community to help Santa provide Christmas for the children.
“Some parents are out of work and there will definitely be more demand to help local children who are less fortunate,” she said.
The public is asked to bring a new, unwrapped gift to any one of 100 donations points listed on the website, www.christmasregatta.com.
Those gifts can be for children of any age, from babies right up through high school. Boxes with the Yachts for Tots logo will be visible all over North Myrtle Beach and Little River.
The folks who put on the Regatta go through area schools, churches and business people to learn which children need the help.
The Regatta doesn’t just benefit the community, the boaters and the children, it even helps “our furry friends,” Watson said.
Donations for local animal shelters such as dog and cat food and toys are welcome.
Watson urges the community to drop off a gift for a child and/or a dog or cat even if COVID-19 keeps them away from the actual parade.
There will be commemorative long-sleeved T-shirts and sweatshirts available during the parade or at Harbourgate Marina before and after. The proceeds will be used to help the children and animals.
Watson, the manager of Harbourgate Marina and a Cherry Grove native, saw a similar parade on a trip to Florida in 1984 with her now deceased husband Royce and her Uncle Poo McLauchlin.
“We’d been looking for something to create for the local community and the families we grew up with, Yachts for Tots started to grow, and now it’s 36 years later,” she said. “Back then, nobody had ever seen a boat parade in this neck of the woods.”
Some of the best viewing spots are Patio’s, Key West Crazy, Cricket Cove Marina, Snooky’s Oceanfront, The Officer’s Club, Anchor Marina, Captain Arche’s, Filet’s, Boardwalk Billy’s and the NMB RV Resort & Marina.
All anyone needs to be in the parade is a boat and an imagination. The boats are decorated in themes and have included everything from Nativity scenes to political messages.
Watson remembers a pontoon boat decorated to look like a train, a tribute to Elvis, flamingos and dancing fish motifs.
“The boaters wear costumes to match their themes and some people spend a whole year planning their boats.”
For more information or information that is subject to change, be sure to visit the website or call Watson at 843-249-8888.
The Regatta, Watson said, is a way to bring in the festive holiday season and to celebrate gathering with family and friends.