The downtown Myrtle Beach business group that organizes summer entertainment and off-season festivals along Ocean Boulevard has its first new president since forming five years ago.
Chris Walker, who helped found the Oceanfront Merchants Association and had been its vice president, has taken over as president.
Walker replaces Jonathan Staton, who resigned after five busy years at the helm so he could spend more time on his businesses, Dagwoods Deli & Sports Bar and Bumstead’s Pub.
Staton, who remains a member, said he just needed a breather after helping get the group up and running and growing it the last few years.
“But I’m not going anywhere,” he said. “Nobody wants it to succeed more than I do.”
One of the first items of business for Walker is hiring the group’s first executive director, a plan that’s been in the works since earlier this year. The plan is to have that person hired by early next year, Walker said.
In addition to taking some of the load off the president, the executive director could help take the group’s festivals to a new level by lining up official sponsors for the first time, Walker said.
“We need someone who can do the legwork,” he said.
Walker said he aims to keep the association moving forward and is open to ideas for the downtown’s core.
The association, which has about 60 members, formed shortly after the Myrtle Beach Pavilion Amusement Park closed in 2006 to lure more visitors and keep the current ones coming back without that major attraction.
The group started with a few nights of activities in the summer but the lineup has grown through the years and now includes fireworks, concerts and other special entertainment every night during the summer and the Oktoberfest and St. Patrick’s Day festivals along Ocean Boulevard.
Its first winter festival, dubbed Christmas on the Boardwalk, is in the works for this year and aims to kick off after Thanksgiving and run through December with weekend activities.
The growth has made the role as president more demanding than it was in the early years.
“We are kind of victims of our own success,” Walker said. “A lot has changed over the last five years.”
Contact DAWN BRYANT at 626-0296 or at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_dawnbryant.