Before the boats set sail for the big flotilla, thousands gathered for a Festival in the Park at Wrightsville beach Saturday. The 26th Annual North Carolina Holiday Flotilla draws a big crowd every year. This year's edition featured more than 80 vendors, a classic car show, plenty of food and lots of contests and activities for the kids. One of the biggest stars of this year's event was the beautiful fall weather. “It is a great turnout, the weather, its not raining. We're so happy that the sun is out. A great turnout, everyone seems like they're having a blast. There's a lot of people here and everybody's getting ready for the boat parade tonight,” said Festival in the Park Chair Michelle Clark. Former major league baseball player and New Hanover High star Trot Nixon was on hand to take photos and sign autographs. “I've been to the night stuff quite a bit, but during the day I've never been down here - but it's pretty cool down here, it's a great time,” said Nixon. This year's festival drew an estimated six thousand people. Of course, the big draw in Wrightsville Beach was the flotilla itself. For the second year in a row, Paula Sturdy and Van Marr won Best in Show on the Reel Hot. This year their theme was "Santa's Flight Under Twin Moonlights", winning them a four-night stay in the Bahamas. Best Powerboat Longer than 26 Feet went to Skip Wilson aboard The Bottom Line, with his “Wizard of Oz" theme. Eric Erberhardt's Gary Nell won Best Powerboat Less than 26 Feet with the theme "Santa's Guide to Wrightsville Beach." "Charlie Brown Christmas" earned Seldom Seen the Best Sailboat Award for Steve and Christy Sutton. And the Best Costumes and Crew Spirit Award went to Steve Arnold aboard The Wendy Lee Two and the theme "Fishing for Christmas."
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