A Conway street will be alive with the sounds of music on the first Thursday night monthly through November.
With summer entering its final big month, Conway Downtown Alive resumes its “Alive After 5” series from 6 to 8 p.m. this Thursday on Third Avenue. Besides an ice cream social, the trio Sea Cruz ( www.seacruz.com) will entertain.
The theme and concert will change for “Alive After 5” each month. For Sept. 5, children’s carnival games and an Elvis Presley tribute by David Chaney are on tap.
Hillary Howard, executive director of Conway Downtown Alive, discussed the enthusiasm shared so equally by downtown merchants and the local and Horry County residents and tourists who pay a visit to celebrate for an evening.
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Question | How long has “Alive After 5” been brewing as a tradition, and how have past years helped pave the way for more of this small-town quality family time?
Answer | We started this in 2010, and I think we did the first and third Thursday of the month. Then, for 2011, we moved to every Thursday night, which was a lot for staff and city staff to put on a mini-festival every Thursday night. In 2012, we went to this monthly format. We’ve always had a musical form of entertainment, and some form of an interesting theme, and that has seemed to work really well.
We have a lot of the stuff coming back month after month. People will call in spring, asking “When are you going to start ‘Alive After 5’?”
Q. | How do these monthly nights out pick up the spirit from Riverfest, right before Independence Day, and carry it through to yuletide time?
A. | That is part of it. The holidays are huge in our downtown district. That’s really what keeps a lot of our businesses going. “Alive After 5” exposes people to what’s available downtown. When we do carry that through to the holiday season, people might think, “We could find some great Christmas presents. Remember when we walked past that store back in the summer?” It keeps up our presence in everyone’s mind, whether for a unique shopping experience,. or a lot of folks visiting and coming back during the holidays.
Q. | Getting out for an evening in our country seat, with its picturesque setting and avenues lined with history, how does this kind of occasion remind everyone of a treasure just a few miles inland from the beach?
A. | They love it. That’s what we hear every time we have “Alive After 5.” People are always coming up, and they start asking questions about Conway. A lot of folks have been through Conway, but not stopped. ... They’ll say, “What are those rods on this side of city hall?” Actually, the rods were installed after the earthquake in Charleston in 1886, to solidify the building. I’ll hear them say, all of a sudden, that was something they didn’t know at all, and it’s a fun fact passed on. ...
We have a lot of cool businesses downtown that people don’t realize are here. When the economy took a downturn, it was one of the best things for our downtown. It really launched that entrepreneurial spirit. ... In 2009, we did a poster contest, in our downtown, and we put up 50 posters in our vacant storefronts. Now, we have only three or four. It’s really special how things have really come full circle for us. And the businesses, when it comes to the next “Alive After 5,” they want to cater to the community.
Q. | How easily are the monthly themes and entertainment booked?
A. | Last year, we had we had some great entertainment. David Chaney: He was awesome, and people wanted him back. And the Big Wheel race was a big hit. We’ve had Ten Toes Up several times, one of the bands we have a great relationship with, and it gives them something to do on a Thursday evening.
Q. | With October as such a nice reward after a long, hot summer, how welcome is fall?
A. | We love October. After last year, when someone wanted to build two- or three-wheel piece for the Big Wheel race, we’ve expanded it to two categories. We have hay bales and people with water guns, and we set up an obstacle course. There’s two people per team, and you have a rider and a pusher, and we have valuable prizes. ... Where else are you going to get that?