Most of the 500 people at the Snowbird Fest Feb. 1 came to investigate rental possibilities, enjoy the entertainment and see what this new event in Myrtle Beach offered. Some had escaped their northern environs three months ago for beach walks, unlimited rounds of golf and warm weather.
Mother Nature stymied their plans for a time this past week when temperatures dipped into the 20s and snow and ice forced them to stay indoors. The snowbirds were not overwhelmed, though. In fact, they accepted Myrtle Beach’s rare winter assault with good humor.
Lorraine McMett of Ithaca, N.Y., came to town in November to be with her father, Duane McMett.
“I love the snow for a few days,” she said. “What a nice change. It was out of the ordinary.” However, she got cabin fever Wednesday and on Thursday went to the boardwalk. “It was deserted,” she said. “It was like the twilight zone. Very eerie.”
Michele and Joe Bowers of Finleyville, Pa., have been coming to the area for 20 years and arrived at Arcadian Dunes Jan. 18 with plans to stay until mid-March.
“The highlight of being here is the sun,” Joe said. “We were getting away from colder weather.”
“It didn’t work,” Michele said.
Joe explained that plows are out to clear the streets early on where they live and life doesn’t come to a standstill.
“We thought it was hysterical here because [back home] it’s not a 48-hour process.”
“We went to Putters Pub at Barefoot Landing Thursday night for Bar Bingo,” Michele said. “That was our first venture out.”
Dorothy and Jim Jeffries of Pinch, W.Va., have been coming to Myrtle Beach during the summer for 30 years but decided this year would be their first snowbird experience and arrived Jan. 3.
“We left a day early to avoid an ice storm that was coming in back home,” Dorothy said.
Will they come back in winter?
“Absolutely,” Jim said. “We love the Myrtle Beach area. It’s the right thing to do.”
Bev and Carl Cudmore of Wainfleet, Ontario, have been coming to the area since 1974 and said the cold, ice and snow didn’t affect them at all.
“We know all about this,” Carl said. “We come prepared [with warm clothing].”
Bev said a local resident told her to fill her bathtub with water to make sure she had a supply.
“I thought that was strange, so I called Horry County. I was told that was only for hurricanes and tornadoes.”
Mike and Catherine Shaw of Lancaster, Ohio, are spending their sixth winter at Ocean Creek where they met Rick and Cindy Anderson of Mayville, N.Y., who have spent 10 winters here.
“It’s better here than at home,” Mike said.
“The four inches of snow wasn’t bad. It was the ice,” Rick said.
“We had a slip-sliding experience,” Mike added. “No one fell, not that we didn’t try.”
Norma and Richard Maslin of Waverly, N.Y., enjoyed watching the children play outside.
“The school kids were sliding like they were up north,” Richard said.
“I don’t like [this weather], but it’s getting better. We’ve been coming here for over 10 years, and this is the worse weather we’ve ever experienced,” Norma said.
Some local residents who attended the Snowbird Fest had a different perspective about the weather. Walter VanLith of Socastee said his next-door neighbor wasn’t home when pipes burst, and Walter was able to shut the water off.
“I’m sure plumbers enjoy this weather more than other people do,” he said. He also thought it was unnecessary to shut down the schools all week. “It’s no good for my son to be home watching television for four days.”
Mary Pryor of Conway smiled as she said she enjoyed the bad weather, but she was sure her husband James Pryor didn’t.
“I was able to rest,” she said. “He didn’t like it because he’s a landscaper, so he was stuck at home with me!”
Ginger and Joseph Colonna of Lebanon, Conn., said their children tell them how cold and snowy it is there. At the same time, “This has been the coldest since we’ve been coming here,” Ginger said. “A half-inch of snow paralyzes this area more than it does in Connecticut.”
“The whole country is experiencing unusual weather,” said Jim Fischer of Schaghticoke, N.Y.
“It was funny,” his wife Tina Fischer said of the ice and snow. “It didn’t have any impact.”
“We had to cancel happy hour,” Diane Rootes of Latham, N.Y., reminded her. “We’re golfers. It’s not great now [to golf], but that will change.”
This is the first time The Snowbird Company has brought its fest to Myrtle Beach, said Sean Beckham, founder and co-owner of The Snowbird Company. He added that he and his partner, Chris Wright, plan to make it an annual event.
“We’re a company that serves snowbirds,” he said. “We’re here because it’s a great fit for our company. It’s a fun fest for the snowbirds.”
He explained that 250 people had pre-registered, and he expected from 500 to 1,000 people during the four-hour fest held in the hall at St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church.
Reach freelance writer JO ANN MATHEWS at www.jamathews.com.