March 3, 2013

Can-Am Days get going in Myrtle Beach

The Maple Leaf flag has an extra place to fly every March across Myrtle Beach for Canadian-American Days.

The Maple Leaf flag has an extra place to fly every March across Myrtle Beach for Canadian-American Days.

The Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce will celebrate this 52nd annual celebration March 9-17, as an extra red carpet rolls out for vacationers from the United States’ northern neighbor, the second largest country on Earth, and home to the Hockey Hall of Fame, in Toronto.

Highlights of the festival include the return of the Celtic step-dance sibling trio Searson (www.searsonband.com) from the Ottawa Valley, bordering Canada’s most populous provinces, Ontario and Quebec. They will play at noon at the Myrtle Beach and Inlet Square malls on March 13 and 14, respectively.

Nora Hembree Battle, spokeswoman for the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, and the musical trio’s Erin Searson, the eldest, each talked about Can-Am Days’ tradition on the Grand Strand.

Question | What keeps Can-Am Days circled on the calendar each year, come March?

Battle | It’s the welcome part, for our Canadian visitors. ... There’s a lot of excitement this year, with the announcement of WestJet flights coming to Myrtle Beach from Toronto. There’s been a lot of comments on that from Canadian visitors; they’re excited about it.

Q. | What part of Can-Am Days remains a staple year after year?

Battle | One of the biggest thing is that most events are free.

Q. | Just how embraced is the Canadian community, as we see in the Ontario, Quebec and occasional Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Prince Edward Island license plates on local roads all winter long?

Battle | That is our largest international market, and one that one we consider to be so incredibly important to our shoulder seasons, and one that has potential to grow. That’s why we continue to see more Canadian visitors, especially when WestJet arrives. I think they love being here. ... WestJet opens up a lot of markets for us, and we know that Toronto is one of our largest markets.

Q. | What makes this time of year, the region’s warm-up leading to spring, so attractive to folks from the Great White North?

Battle | The season is one of them; the season’s longer, ... and if they want to be in the United States longer, that’s good for us. ... Also, not all Canadian visitors make Myrtle Beach their final destination. I know a lot of them travel and stop on their way down to Florida and others stop on their way back up. Having Canadians visit here, we know how important they are to us. ... Their stay here is incredibly important to our local economy and the tourism economy as a whole.

Q. | Do Can-Am Days also give local residents another reason to get out and take part in various events, maybe also, to count down the days to St. Patrick’s Day and start of spring?

Battle | St. Patrick’s Day is always a big hit with our visitors ... and local residents share in it. ... It’s always good to have the local community get out and mingle with our visitors.

Q. | What keeps the Searson trio coming back to Myrtle Beach for what becomes near-St. Patrick’s Day timing?

Searson | We’ve done this one twice now. ... It’s going to be a very busy week for us after Myrtle Beach. We’re heading to Las Vegas afterward, so we want to look forward to good weather for all of that week.

Q. | Step dancing and fiddling, along with the array of instruments you and your siblings have mastered: How does this blend of musical experience go beyond Celtic culture, and how much do you see it resonate across Canada and the United States?

Searson | We have a particular style of fiddling and step dancing, and we’ve been influenced by the Celtic style as well. It’s been recognized everywhere we go. People love Celtic music in general, and they actually surprise us at places we play. We’re surprised at how many people connect with Celtic music.

Q. | When playing across Europe, does that time spent there enhance your music and passion for the culture from your vocal chords, instruments and dancing even more?

Searson | We are overwhelmed by the response. ... We played in Spain for the second time, in the north, and after we performed that night, we were invited to a pub across the street from where we played. We got to see their traditional music they played, from the north. Those are the kind of things, that show an appreciation for traditional music, and shows how close to home it is. It gives you a new sense of appreciation, and we write all our own stuff.

Q. | Does your music fall under any category of country music in Canada, where country has a slightly different sound and perhaps has stayed a little more traditional?

Searson | We get invited to play at country festivals, but we never get played on country stations. We’re Canadian Celtic pop. We’re not falling into what people listen to as country.

Q. | What takes you aback at swinging by the Grand Strand every March, and what outlets for recreation await you?

Searson | How a lot of people from this area are down there at this time of year. We see our retired high school teachers, and our doctors and dentists, so it’s kind of nice reunion for us. ... We’ll take time to get out and walk down the beach. We’ll enjoy the town and wear the sandals.

Q. | How long will you, sisters Heather and Colleen, and your accompanying drummer, play at your concerts here, and what other global travels are booked?

Searson | We’ll do two 45-minute sets in each place. We’ll go back to Europe, and at the beginning of July, we’ll go to Portugal to play a festival, and possibly Italy.

Q. | For anyone who dreams of ice skating on the frozen Ottawa River, near your nation’s capital, how memorable would that experience be? How often do you lace up your boots to glide on that ice?

Searson | You would love it! We go skating on the canal every chance we get. My sister Colleen lives near downtown Ottawa, so she gets to see all of the Winterlude festival, which brings in thousands of visitors every year. We have incredible ice sculpture competitions, and you can eat beaver tails and hot apple cider while skating – tons of fun.

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