The original boat parade in the area, the Intracoastal Waterway Christmas Regatta, launches this Saturday from Little River to 13th Avenue North in North Myrtle Beach, starting at dusk with 30 boats, large and small, literally decked out for the holidays.
Organizers are expecting as many as 20,000 people to view it, said Susie Watson, event organizer. That includes many people at private parties in homes along the waterway as well as those going to restaurants and bars.
One of the biggest challenges for those who just want to see it and drive home is where to go.
Watson said her recommendation is to watch from under the Route 9 bridge, by Johnny Causey’s boat landing, because there is ample parking and the North Myrtle Beach band will be set up there, as well. “Either side of the bridge has good viewing areas,’’ she said, adding that for those who are not interested in going to waterway restaurants and bars, finding a spot “is always the challenge’’ for the charitable event, the goal of which is to provide toys for area, needy children as well as supplies for the Humane Society.
The committee has discussed with the city of North Myrtle Beach about putting up bandstands, but it has not come to fruition. People could also look to street ends in Little River, Little River Neck/Old Highway 17 (the road is just to the northeast of the Swingbridge between the two hotels) and a few streets on the northern end of North Myrtle Beach to 13th Avenue North at Dock Holliday’s Marina.
Viewers might also consider Little River eateries at the end of Mineola Avenue Waterfront Avenue in Little River, which provides viewing areas, and has a large auxiliary parking lot as well as Snooky’s at the end of Baker Street and Clark’s Restaurant at Coquina Harbor. Filet’s Restaurant is booked up for dinner reservations, but general manager Brittany Bowman said, “People can still come in the bar area and they’re welcome to find anywhere they can find to stand and watch.’’ Boardwalk Billy’s doesn’t take reservations, and manager Michael Smith recommended people arrive “a little after 4’’ for seating. The restaurant has parking on both sides of the street and neighboring Dock Holliday’s marina is where the boats stop and turn around.
Watson encouraged people further down the waterway to be patient. “Remember, the boat parade starts at 5 p.m. in Little River. By 6 o’clock, it will be at the Myrtle Beach Yacht Club/Coquina Harbor in Little River, around 6:30 at Captain Archie’s/Harbourgate (swingbridge area) and 7 o’clock at Boardwalk Billy’s. Just be patient. Don’t get discouraged.’’
People are encouraged to bring an unwrapped gift or animal shelter supplies at any of 70 retail locations in the area set up with red boxes. The waterway restaurants are participants and have boxes. Some private communities are also doing donation drives. Watson said presents can be dropped off in the box at her office at Harbourgate Marina afterwards, as well. Take the first left off Little River Neck road, just behind Filet’s and the white business park. Some area businesses do special challenges, such as The Shack on Sea Mountain Highway, which is encouraging people to donate new or “very gently used’’ bicycles. Bicycles may be donated up to Dec. 12.
Weather wise, it is too early to predict as of press time. However, the forecast of 60 percent rain is just for the morning and intermittent thereafter. And, as Watson noted, there’s only a 10 percent chance on Friday and Sunday, so if the front moves in faster or slower, there’s reason for optimism. The temperature is predicted to be in the mid 60s-50s.
“Rain or shine we will parade; it’s for the children. We still need the toys for the children, and we hope to see you along the parade route,’’ Watson added.