Weekend of fun expected at 2017 Winterfest Boat Parade

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - Last-minute preparations are underway as the 2017 Winterfest Boat Parade nears in Fort Lauderdale.

The 2017 Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest Boat Parade kicks off on Saturday and is expected to bring together families and friends with the year’s theme, Broadway on Parade. The parade will take place on the New River in Downtown Fort Lauderdale from 6:30 p.m. to 11:55 p.m.

“Light Up the Night is doing a Broadway, cutting-edge technology LED boat that’s just gonna wow everyone,” said Winterfest President and CEO Lisa Scott-Founds.

Boat owners spent days, even weeks, decorating their vessels to highlight their favorite Broadway shows.

“Wicked good, wicked fun. We decided ‘We wish you a “Wicked” Christmas’ would be a really fun thing,” said participant Helen Hershner.

“We got a lot of fog on the boat, a lot of green lighting. We’ve got the stand-up characters in the front of Glinda and Elphaba,” said fellow participant Mike Doner.

The “Wicked”-inspired vessel will debut for the very first time at the 46th annual parade. “We started Thanksgiving weekend doing some prep,” said Doner. “Almost every weekend since, I’ve been adding and tweaking and checking.”

The theme ranges from Broadway classics to celebrities. “One thing that’s really exciting is the RNDC boat, which is going to have Joey Fatone and Chris Kirkpatrick from ‘N Sync, so we’re really excited,” said Scott-Founds.

This year’s grand marshals are country music’s Big & Rich. “John and I were so excited to be a part of something so awesome,” said Big & Rich’s Big Kenny.

Iconic singer Connie Francis and ‘N Sync’s Joey Fatone will both be in attendance. “It’s my second year,” Fatone said. “Obviously I had a great time as I wanted to come back.”

7’s own Steve Shapiro, Vivian Gonzalez and Alex de Armas will also be there.

According to a Winterfest Parade news release, the parade will travel east to the Intracoastal Waterway and continue north to Lake Santa Barbara in Pompano.

Gonzalez was outside the Riverside Hotel with the hotel’s general manager, Heiko Dobrikow. “We are certainly the ones in charge of the VIP party,” he said. “The VIP party for the Winterfest sponsors are going to be right here at Laura Ward Park and the Stranahan House. We are so excited about it.”

Dobrikow said there will be an extension of the Riverwalk into Laura Ward Park.

Scott-Founds said there will be plenty of places to watch the parade, but the best spot is their grandstand area. “We’ve got a beautiful, four grandstand area with front-row seating and tickets are still available,” she said.

Winterfest Parade Chairman Mark Swenson explained what to expect on Saturday night. “It’s a really important night for us,” said Swenson. “It kicks off at 6:30 tomorrow night. Something to keep in mind for people on land: there will be bridge closures. The parade starts here in New River, it works a 12-mile route up to Lake Santa Barbara.”

When asked which boats to expect, Swenson was mum on the topic, but said: “If I told you all the Wild Boats, we’d be here for a very long time. There’s a tremendous amount of time and energy that’s put into the parade.”

Bridges are expected to be closed due to Winterfest. The list is as follows:

  • Seventh Avenue Bridge (Bridge up: 6:20 p.m.; Bridge close 8 p.m.)
  • Feci Railroad Bridge (Bridge up: 4:30 p.m.; Bridge close 9 p.m.)
  • Andrews Avenue (Bridge up: 6 p.m.; Bridge close 8 p.m.)
  • Third Avenue Bridge (Bridge up: 6 p.m.; Bridge close 8 p.m.)
  • Las Olas Boulevard (Bridge up: 7 p.m.; Bridge close 9 p.m.)
  • Sunrise Boulevard (Bridge up: 7:20 p.m.; Bridge close 9:30 p.m.)
  • Oakland Park Boulevard (Bridge up: 7:40 p.m.; Bridge close 10 p.m.)
  • Commercial Boulevard (Bridge up: 8 p.m.; Bridge close 11 p.m.)

For more information and tickets, click here.

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