Winterfest 2013: Tracy Morgan replaces Tori Spelling as grand marshal

Ex “90210” star Tori Spelling is out and “30 Rock” laugh-riot Tracy Morgan is in as co-grand marshal of Saturday's Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest Boat Parade in Fort Lauderdale.

The news of Spelling’s withdrawl was revealed Wednesday night, once Morgan had agreed to attend. The announcement followed more than 10 days of scrambling after Spelling’s camp let parade organizers know the actress could not take part.

“Honestly, we don’t know why. We weren’t told. They just said she was not able to make it,” said Winterfest president and CEO Lisa Scott-Founds on Thursday.

In a weekend interview with People magazine, the 40-year-old Spelling acknowledged she is going through a rough patch as the mother of four young children, including a 1- and 2-year-old born 10 months apart.

“It’s really difficult right now,” Spelling told People at an event in Los Angeles on Saturday.

While the last-minute change only adds to the considerable burden of putting on an event expected to draw 1 million spectators along the New River and the Intracoastal, the trade of whatever lingering glamour Spelling has for Morgan's more recent, Emmy-nominated star power is a coup.

“He’s someone people can relate to,” said Scott-Founds, who credits connections with the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino for securing Morgan. “We always try to have [a grand marshal] that is fun, exciting, someone who will put a happy face on. He appeals to a broad cross-section of the public.”

In January, Morgan concluded his Tracy Jordan role on the NBC hit “30 Rock,” which left the air after seven seasons. In 2009, he was nominated for an Emmy for outstanding supporting actor in a comedy series. Morgan, of course, created some indelible characters on “Saturday Night Live,” including Brian Fellows and Astronaut Jones.

He does not board the Grand Marshal Showboat presented by JM Lexus without some baggage. In 2011, a homophobic rant during a performance at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium drew heavy criticism, including “30 Rock” boss Tina Fey. Morgan later met with local GLAAD representatives and apologized.

“We honestly thought it was something that had passed. He apologized with GLAAD and everything was forgiven,” Scott-Founds said, observing that Winterfest has many gay participants.

Morgan will serve as co-grand marshal of the parade, which starts moving at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, with champion IndyCar racer Ryan Hunter-Reay, of Fort Lauderdale.

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