If the news that Miami-based rapper Flo Rida will serve as grand marshal of this year’s Winterfest Boat Parade seems at odds with the event’s family-oriented theme, you don’t know Flo.
The best moment of last year’s tween-friendly Jingle Ball concert at the BB&T Center was created not by headliners Miley Cyrus, Enrique Iglesias, or even Ariana Grande, but by Flo Rida, the massive creator of such hits as “Low,” "Right Round,” “I Cry (Just A Little),” “Whistle” and “Wild Ones.”
At the end of his set, just after the 6-foot-3, 200-something-pound Carol City native had been carried the length of the BB&T Center by an even bigger guy in a Santa suit, Flo Rida hit the stage and swung into his career-making crossover hit “Low.” As the song gained traction, he gathered onstage around him a passel of twitchy suburban tween girls (each in the fashionable uniform of the Miley and Austin Mahone tribes), among whom he passed the microphone for a giggly sing-along.
As he danced among the kids, smiling and giggling a bit himself, Flo Rida was transformed from tattooed gangsta to a character with a warm, paternal bearing, something almost, yes, jolly. It was a charming moment in an evening sadly distinguished by a Miley-Santa twerkout.
Besides, Flo Rida, with the new hit "GDFR (It's Goin' Down For Real)" and the imminent album “Perfect 10,” is about as popular as he’s ever been. That hasn’t always been the case with Winterfest grand marshals, including last year when “90210” favorite Tori Spelling got the call. Of course, she called back a few days before the event to extend her regrets, and parade organizers rallied nicely with “30 Rock” star Tracy Morgan joining IndyCar star Ryan Hunter-Reay, of Fort Lauderdale.
Other memorable grand marshals have included Willard Scott, Lee Majors, Regis Philbin, Joan Rivers, George Hamilton, Donald Trump, David Cassidy, Shaquille O’Neal, Frankie Valli, Lorraine Bracco, Jim Belushi, Alonzo Mourning, Kim Kardashian, Brooke Burke and Barry Gibb.
Names still in the headlines when they appeared in the parade include O’Neal (fresh off his 2004 trade to the Miami Heat), Bracco (2007, the final year of “The Sopranos”), Kardashian (in 2009, having just reconciled with future Miami Dolphins star Reggie Bush) and Burke (in 2010 with “Dancing With the Stars”).
The Winterfest Boat Parade begins at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 13 in downtown Fort Lauderdale’s New River, with boats first arriving at the official grandstand area at Birch State Park at around 7:30 p.m. Kids activities, food and drinks of all kinds can be found in the grandstand area beginning at 3:30 p.m.
Reserved grandstand seating at the park is $25, $20 (10 and younger) at WinterfestParade.com/tickets. There you’ll also find where $5-off tickets can be purchased at select Publix and Fifth Third locations. More info: WinterfestParade.com.