The annual festival celebrating Canadian visitors to the Grand Strand is set to kick off in two weeks.
The 52nd annual Canadian-American Days will take place March 9-17 and include free events such as band concerts, a St. Patrick’s Day parade in North Myrtle Beach and expos.
Canada is the top international market for Grand Strand tourism, including snowbirds who spend several months during the off-season here to escape the harsh winters up north. Can-Am Days, created in 1961 to attract Canadian families to the Grand Strand during their school spring break, has drawn as many as 100,000 visitors each season, according to the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, which organizes the event.
Three area malls will host entertainment. The festival’s expo is set for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. March 15 at Coastal Grand mall and will include live entertainment and more than 40 exhibitors. SEARSON, a trio of sisters whose style is a mix of Celtic and pop, will perform live during celebrations at noon March 13 at Myrtle Beach Mall and noon March 14 at Inlet Square Mall.
“Canadian-American Days events are meant to celebrate our snowbird visitors, who escape the cold and snow for the moderate climate and wealth of attractions in the Myrtle Beach area,” chamber president Brad Dean said in a news release. “Our Canadian visitors are very important to us, especially as they tend to visit during a non-peak travel times for our area.”
More options for Canadians to get here are emerging. Porter Airlines has boosted its flights to Toronto City Centre, and Canadian-based carrier WestJet plans to start flying to Myrtle Beach from Toronto Pearson International Airport on May 2. Those seasonal flights will run through Oct. 24.
Sun (officially) sets on Sun Fun
Another popular festival along the Grand Strand won’t be back this year.
No partners have emerged to run the 60-year-old Sun Fun Festival, which the chamber canceled last year saying it didn’t pay for itself. The chamber, the area’s main tourism promoter, said it wanted to focus on luring tourists to the beach, and the Sun Fun Festival didn’t do that anymore.
It wanted groups to come in to run the festival, but had no takers. Sun Fun typically took place in early June, so there’s no time left to get one organized.
“Logically, it just can’t happen,” said Tommy Bouchette, chairman of the chamber’s board of directors. “I don’t see it...Nothing has been presented.”
The Sun Fun Festival was created by the chamber and other local business owners in the early 1950s to draw media attention with games such as bubble-gum blowing contests and human checkers, and to help kick off the summer tourism season by giving visitors a reason to come to the beach during the first week of June.
But now visitors have other reasons to come to the beach – including attractions that weren’t even thought of when Sun Fun was born – and tourists start trickling in earlier in the year, meaning there’s less need for a Sun Fun Festival, officials have said.
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