As the North Carolina Holiday Flotilla Committee begins planning for the 2017 festivities, it will have extra support this year from the friends and family of Wrightsville Beach resident Paula Sturdy, a mainstay in the annual boat parade who died unexpectedly in January.
The flotilla committee has so far received $2,500 in donations for Sturdy, whose family asked that contributions go to the flotilla committee in her memory. More donations are expected as well. Members of the flotilla committee said on Monday that this year’s parade would feature some form of tribute to Sturdy.
Sturdy, along with husband Van Marr, won the flotilla four consecutive years on their boat, Reel Hot. Each year, she and Marr would host a party on the back deck of their condo at the Moorings, where visitors helped decorate the boat that would later pass by those very docks as part of the flotilla parade.
“She was a friend to everyone she met,” Jim Freeman, a past chairman of the flotilla, said of Sturdy after her death.
The 2017 North Carolina Holiday Flotilla is scheduled for Nov. 24 -25.
For the first time this year, the flotilla committee will also be using an online system to register sponsorship pledges. Mailed pledge cards and emails include a website address, www.ncholidayflotilla.org, which directs potential sponsors to the online signup form. The committee has already sent 98 email and 130 postal requests to sponsors from last year’s flotilla.
In other flotilla news, the classic beach music group, The Embers, will return to the Blockade Runner Beach Resort to perform at the Launch Party held the Friday night before the flotilla.
The flotilla committee welcomes three new members this year. Claire Foster, of Wilmington, will be in charge of tallying votes for the boats, while Jarrod Covington, owner of Wrightsville SUP, will work on attracting new sponsors. Cat Willis will be in charge of the captains’ party silent auction.
Foster, a health care executive, said she attended her first flotilla only last year, as before, her Thanksgiving holiday had always spent with her father, who died last year.
“I loved how much the kids loved it and how cool the community event was,” said Foster, whose role will be to coordinate how the fan votes and judge’s votes are tallied. “I wanted to help shape some new ideas.”
The committee will also be able to expand the size of the Festival in the Park, which is held the Saturday of the boat parade, as more spots will be available on the soccer field for vendors, going from 86 spaces to nearly 140 now.
“The guests will need that much more space to browse for their holiday shopping,” said committee member John Andrews, owner of South Beach Grill.
The flotilla committee will also be looking to introduce new merchandise, including a new design for the T-shirt, said Andrews, who heads merchandising for the committee.
It will also consider replacing some of the 18 banners that are hung around town for the flotilla, as several have become worn and tattered. Committee member Linda Brown said some were so worn that they weren’t even put up last year.