boat-delta_web.jpgFORT LAUDERDALE – Long before large crowds gathered for the annual Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest Boat Parade on Saturday, 41-year-old Chandra Evans posed for a photo in front of the 120-foot yacht that would make history.

Evans would join nearly 400 members of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. on the yacht, the first representing an African-American nonprofit to participate in the 42-year-old event.

“It means a lot to me because there was a time when our ancestors could not even come and be on this side of the community,” Evans said.

Sorority members said participating in Winterfest was an important milestone to wrap up 2013, the Deltas’ centennial year. In January, the national sorority

participated in another high-profile event: the 124th Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif., local leadership said. “This is the right time for us to do this,” Evans said. “This is the right year.”

Despite its popularity, Winterfest isn’t cheap, or easy, to enter. The South Broward Alumnae Chapter, which organized the participation, received quotes for as much as $20,000 for decorations alone, said Cassandra E. Joseph, chapter president, although she wouldn’t disclose how much the group finally invested. Sponsors included Macy’s and the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, which, Joseph said, helped with decorations and travel. “We’re definitely leading the path in this event,” said Katina Kennedy, a member of the Broward County Alumnae Chapter.

For Angela Hylor, participation in the boat parade was the culmination of years of hard work. In 2002, Hylor and other sorority members began organizing a South Broward Alumnae Chapter, which was chartered in 2009, with Hylor serving as charter president.

“I told them when I was president that we wouldn’t have $50 chicken dinners or golf tournaments,” Hylor said.

Instead, Hylor wanted South Broward to be a trendsetter. “I’m going to try this. I may fail, I may do something good but I’m going to try,” was Hylor’s attitude.  In the past, the South Broward chapter organized international bazaars, women’s symposiums and retreats.

Boat parade participants paid up to $150 to board, with proceeds benefitting the chapter’s scholarship fund and community service projects.

On Saturday, members of the sororitywearing their finest crimson-and-cream outfits, lined up to board the yacht which was lit up with the sorority’s Greek  letters. The event drew members  from across the state and the country, including the national president Dr. Paulette C. Walker, a Tampa-area resident.

“I can’t wait to get onboard and be part of the festivities for four glorious hours,” said Delores Mayes, a member of the West Palm Beach Alumnae Chapter.

Evans, a member of the Broward County Alumnae Chapter, said she felt like she was among family. “What we thrive on is sisterhood and that’s what we’re thriving on here: love and sisterhood,” Evans said.