Celebrate the holidays the Florida way at Winterfest Boat Parade

HOLLYWOOD, FLA. (WSVN) - The Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest Boat Parade is getting ready to light up the South Florida waters.

Saturday night, the Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest Boat Parade will celebrate its 45th Anniversary.

This year’s theme is “Comics & Cartoons Rockin’ the Night Away.”

“It’s the best theme ever,” said Winterfest President & CEO Lisa Scott-Founds. “I mean, the kids are gonna have the best time. It’s gonna be amazing.”

More than 100 vessels, from small boats to mega yachts, will cruise along the New River and Intracoastal Waterway in Fort Lauderdale and Pompano Beach, all decked out in dazzling lights.

“We’re so excited to be able to participate in this important economic event to Fort Lauderdale,” said President of Fifth Third Bank, Jim Ray, “and we’re just grateful that we get to be the official bank and be involved in this wonderful community event.”

Miami’s own Mr. 305, Pitbull, will be this year’s Grand Marshal.

But the Latin Grammy winner couldn’t wait until Saturday to get the party started. Friday night, he was the guest of honor at a kickoff reception held at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood.

Naturally, Pitbull was unable resist the allure of 7News’ cameras. “Looking forward to Winterfest, and it’s great that, before, the Dade County Board., they wouldn’t let me in Broward County. Now they’re letting me into Broward County,” he said. “Thank you. I appreciate it.”

Pitbull did not leave the night’s festivities empty-handed. He was given the ceremonial Hard Rock guitar.

Mr. 305 was also given a large, yellow and glitzy “954” sign. “This weekend, honey, you’re Mr. 954,” said the presenter.

RELATED: Black tie ball kicks off Winterfest

But this was just the warmup act for Saturday’s big show.

Winterfest has been the greatest show on H2O for the past 45 years, and the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino is celebrating their 12th year as title sponsor.

Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler remembers when the event wasn’t as massive. “It started as a little boat parade on the water, and now it’s just such a community asset,” he said. “It’s a tremendous treasure to all of Fort Lauderdale and Broward County.”

In fact, it’s boasted Joan Rivers, Bon Hope, and yes, even President-elect Donald Trump as past Grand Marshals.

So what surprises does this year’s parade have in store for revelers? “There are so many things to look forward to,” said Seminole Hard Rock Vice President of Communication Affairs, Susan Renneisen. “Especially the ball. We absolutely love producing the ball. We have so much fun with it. Every year we get a good theme to work with. We try so hard to shake it up and make it different.”

RELATED: Black tie ball kicks off Winterfest

“I’ve been riding along with the Grand Marshal now for 10 years,” said Renneisen. “I’ve been the escort, and you know, it’s always something new every year. You never know what’s gonna go down once you’re on that boat.”

NSYNC’s own Joey Fatone and Chris Kirkpatrick will join the list of celebrities at this year’s Winterfest, as well.

“It’s really something amazing for Florida as a state,” said Scott-Founds.

There will be multiple viewing areas along the way, but the best seats on land will be at the Grand Stand Viewing Area, just north of Sunrise Boulevard.

Other viewing areas include bridges, The Riverside Hotel, Downtown Saloon and various locations along the parade route.

“The Riverside Hotel in Las Olas is really becoming the party central for the Winterfest Boat Parade,” said Riverside Hotel General Manager, Heiko Dobrikow. “We are just so excited, that we can just join with our community and just gather in that night and make it the best.”

And get prepared to see boats decked out like you have never seen them before.

“They’ll see the biggest boat they have ever seen in this parade, over 200 feet. That’s a first,” said Capt. Lee Rosbach, the Official Winterfest Captain.

“We’ve got a barge out there that is literally going to be full of dancing and superheroes and comics and cartoons,” said Scott-Founds. “And we’ve got a phantom rescue, which is inside and outside of the water, which is going to be one of those things you’ve never seen-cutting edge technology in this parade.”

The hotel’s parties are open to the public. You can find tickets at www.riversidehotel.com. “We have right here the patio party, where everything starts, the fireworks, the boats and the glory,” said Dobrikow. “And then we added this year, actually, the pool party.”

Officials want to remind drivers that traffic patterns are going to be changing due to the parade. There will be multiple bridge closures starting at 6 p.m.

RELATED: Bridge closures scheduled for Winterfest Boat Parade 

If you want to keep track of Santa as he makes his way down the river, you can download the special Winterfest Boat Parade app. “Well, you know Santa is flying in from the North Pole, and we’re super excited,” said Scott-Founds. “He’s not here yet, but we’re kind of tracking him on our Santa Tracker, which everybody can download. It’s a free app.”

The Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest Boat Parade launches, Saturday at 6:30 p.m.

For more information and to purchase Grand Stand Viewing Area tickets, call 954-767-0686 or visit their website, winterfestparade.com.

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