MYRTLE BEACH — Plans for a New Year’s Eve festival in downtown Myrtle Beach were scaled back after members of the Oceanfront Merchants Association said they felt the event could take away from the businesses that typically throw parties that night.
Instead of having a day-long event in Plyler Park on New Year’s Eve, including live music and a beer garden, OMA president Chris Walker said the group will sponsor a midnight fireworks display at Pier 14.
Walker said he didn’t want the proposed festival to take business away from bars and restaurants that usually put together a special event for their regular year-round customers and impose a cover charge to make a little extra money.
“There are so few people in town,” he said of why a New Year’s Eve event is different than other OMA-sponsored events that serve alcohol. “There are not an extra 14,000 people hanging around on [Ocean] Boulevard. On St. Patrick’s Day or Oktoberfest, it’s not just a regular Saturday. You have 10,000 people down here. So the pie is big enough to be split many ways.”
The New Year’s fireworks display is one of several new additions to the lineup of events aiming to lure visitors downtown during the winter off-season. A Martin Luther King Jr. Family Fest is set for January and a country music festival is planned for February aiming to draw visitors downtown during those three-day holiday weekends.
As for New Year’s, boardwalk businesses have different opinions on how the night might turn out.
Michelle Westfield, assistant manager at Moe Moon’s Beach Bar and Grill on the boardwalk, said it usually has New Year’s Eve specials each year.
“We’ll have a shindig that night,” she said. “We usually do special shots, have hats and noisemakers and have a discount on some appetizers.”
Westfield said she’d heard about the original party plans and the change to only a fireworks display, but Dirty Don’s Oyster Bar & Grill owner Bill Howard wasn’t aware of any plans.
“This is the first I’m hearing of it,” he said Thursday. “The Boulevard after 8 p.m. on New Year’s Eve is as dead as a doornail. We’re not going to sit in an empty restaurant until midnight.”
Howard said he would keep his restaurant, located on the boardwalk, open if there were an event held in the area that drew more people downtown.
“Maybe if they did a concert or something like they did a few years ago we’d [stay open],” he said, referring to a privately-sponsored block party held to ring in 2010.
That Rock’n the Beach event, put together by Global Attractions Development and Management, featured a beach ball raise at midnight, a beer garden, vendors and children’s activities. Organizers planned for that party to be held annually, but did not hold another event.
Walker said OMA plans to have the New Year’s Eve fireworks display annually and work with more of the oceanfront bars and restaurants to organize the event next year.
Taking advantage of three-day weekends
Walker said he also hoped oceanfront businesses could capitalize on three-day weekends by holding a Martin Luther King Jr. Family Fest in January and a “Board-Rockin’ Country Music Festival” in February. Both events will be held for the first time.
“There are two three-day weekends in January and February,” he said. “Every other weekend depends on the weather, but people are more likely to plan trips around a three-day weekend. Those are the only thing you can really hang your hat on [in the off-season].”
The Martin Luther King Jr. Family Fest will be Jan. 18 in Plyler Park and be geared toward families. The event will feature children’s activities, storytelling about King and an inspirational speaker. Walker said OMA still is working to secure a speaker.
The country music festival featuring six bands will be from 2 p.m. to 11 p.m. Feb. 15.
“We’re still lining up bands,” Walker said. “We’ve got some ideas but nothing to announce yet. There will be local and regional bands.”
Walker said he’s not sure if the King and country music events will be held annually.
“We’ll have to gauge the success and see,” he said. “With any of these things, you have to allow them to grow and suck it up and lose some money if you have to the first year.”
Contact MAYA T. PRABHU at 444-1722 or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_MPrabhu.