Floating Right Along
Ocean Isle Beach Flotilla, a highly successful fundraiser for Brunswick Family Assistance, celebrates its 20th anniversary on November 25.
Brillant lights surrounding imaginative creations will once again dominate the Intracoastal Waterway on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. On November 25, about two dozen boats will participate in this year’s 20th anniversary of the Ocean Isle Beach Flotilla.
Last year’s overall winner was a purple octopus on an Invincible 37 Catamaran, which employees of Anglers Marine NC of Supply decorated.
“We were pretty excited with the finished product and that it won,” says Carter Lowrance, sales manager. “My initial thought was, ‘What are we going to do to top this next year?’ We really enjoy being a part of the OIB Flotilla. It is a great opportunity to be involved and interact with the community while raising money for a great cause.”
Six-time overall winner Jeff Cox, owner of Shallotte Rent-All, has decorated his 24-foot pontoon boat as a yellow school bus, a helicopter, a rocking horse, a train, a nutcracker and twice as a fire engine. “Red always looks good and movement is always good, too,” he says. This year he may have a giant crab with claws waving
Bobby and Tracy Dauses entered their 20-foot boat the past five years and won first place twice, once for a mermaid and another year for Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer with antlers. “It’s a great cause,” Bobby says. “That’s the main reason we do it.”
Charles and Michelle Griffin founded the flotilla in 2003 with no intention of making it a fundraiser. They and some friends decided to decorate their boats and float from the Griffins’ OIB home along the Intracoastal Waterway to Sharky’s Restaurant on the OIB Causeway.
The camaraderie it generated prompted the group to feature another flotilla in 2004. It became an annual event, and people gave the group money to cover costs, which they donated to charity. However, two events changed their frivolity to serious fundraising. The tragic OIB fire on October 28, 2007, which claimed the lives of seven college students, and the November 3 death of their OIB volunteer firefighter friend Alvin Comer, Jr., motivated them to raise money for the Ocean Isle Beach Fire Department.
“We decided to make t-shirts, and we put [Alvin’s] helmet number on it,” Michelle says. “We had about 30. Now we order about 1,000.”
“We sold 1,050 last year,” says Cheryl Wilson, a friend of the Griffins and organizer of the fundraiser. The cost of a T-shirt is $25. They are also available at The Curious Mermaid Boutique at 120 Causeway Drive. This year a parrot is the symbol on the anniversary t-shirt. Friends of the Griffins and Wilson work for Margaritaville Hospitality Company, which has been a generous sponsor for several years.
The group added raffle tickets to the fundraiser about 15 years ago, and local merchants donate jewelry, art, coolers, private chef services, fishing charters and much more. Tickets for the raffle are available at Sharky’s from lunchtime on Friday, November 24, through Saturday.
“We are grateful to Sharky’s for letting us do this,” Wilson says. “They give us whatever we ask for.”
Ray Harris, owner of Sharky’s laughs when he hears this. “They take over [the restaurant] well,” he says. “It’s really become a big event. It’s standing room only.”
“Now that 59 Causeway Grill is here, they support us unbelievably, too,” Wilson says.
“It’s one big party,” says Larry Alderson, owner of 59 Causeway Grill. “It’s great what they put together to help people in need. It’s all about what they do for Brunswick Family Assistance.” Alderson provided cash prizes last year for the winners of the flotilla. He also donates 100 turkeys to Brunswick Family Assistance for Thanksgiving.
The Griffins and Wilson credit retired Shallotte Presbyterian Church Rev. John Causey for recommending Brunswick Family Assistance as a beneficiary of donations. BFA, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, provides emergency relief as well as educational programs for those in need.
“We learned about [BFA] and found out what good things they do,” Wilson says. “They cover what we think needs to be covered in the county.”
Entry fee for all boats in the two categories, 20-foot and under and 21-foot and over, is $30. Each category has a first, second and third place winner, and one boat is the overall winner. Boats begin their journey at Bowen Point near Inlet View Restaurant in Shallotte. Sea Tow leads the parade, Charles shines lights on the markers to help guide the boats along the Waterway, and a sheriff’s boat is at the end. Thousands of people watch along the route as the flotilla travels down the Waterway, and several hundred gather at Sharky’s and 59 Causeway Grill
The flotilla raised $45,640 in 2022, and this year, “We want to make a dollar more than we made last year,” Michelle says.
“Through the years it’s grown 20, 30, 40 percent,” Harris says. “It’s a great way to get the community together.”
“We had no idea it would do what it has done,” Wilson says.
Want to participate or watch?
Ocean Isle Beach Flotilla
Saturday, November 25, 5 pm
Begins at Bowen Point near Inlet View Bar and Grill and heads down the Intracoastal Waterway to Sharky’s Restaurant