March 11, 2014

Myrtle Beach area turning green as St. Patrick’s Day, and spring, approach

Green is more than a color of spring, but also the hip hue for the grand Irish celebrations leading into the season of rebirth and renewal – and maybe the end of icy temperatures from this winter.

Green is more than a color of spring, but also the hip hue for the grand Irish celebrations leading into the season of rebirth and renewal – and maybe the end of icy temperatures from this winter.

With St. Patrick’s Day falling on a Monday this year, the merriment will start earlier and stretch the whole weekend.

The numerous activities across the Grand Strand include Conway Downtown Alive’s fourth annual “Gathering of the Green” 5-9 p.m. Friday on Third Avenue in downtown Conway, North Myrtle Beach’s 26th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Festival at 9 and 11 a.m. respectively on Saturday on Main Street, and the Oceanfront Merchants Association’s fifth annual Downtown Myrtle Beach St. Patrick’s Day Celebration, a benefit for Horry County Special Olympics, noon-midnight Saturday on Ocean Boulevard, between Eighth and 11th avenues North.

Sherri Loomis, event promoter for the merchants group in Myrtle Beach, said the downtown St. Pat’s bash, a benefit for Horry County Special Olympics, will boast several new amenities, such as a “kids’ carnival area,” with rides (for a fee), with the Tea Cups and the like. Visitors also will see stilt walkers, balloon-animal makers, face painters and “tons of food vendors.”

Also, with other local businesses and sellers in a “sidewalk sales” arrangement between Ninth Avenue North and Mr. Joe White Avenue, Loomis said this cluster will mark “the biggest amount of vendors we’ve had,” and as of March 6, she and association colleagues were still “getting calls for more.”

Having Coastal Carolina University alumnae Elise Testone of Charleston, a top 10 finisher on Fox TV’s “American Idol” in 2012, as headliner 9:30-11 p.m., will cap off a day of free concerts. Loomis said new this year, VIP tickets for $50 also are available, with a section of seating where lunch, dinner and beverages will be served.

The VIP section will give “a nice bonus,” Loomis said, for “you get to be stage right, right next to the stage.”

She also said besides 10 acts taking turns all day long on the main stage, between Eighth and Ninth avenues North, another performance area “at the other end” will be set up for some local dance studios and high school bands to entertain.

The merchants association begins every year with this St. Pat’s Day bash, which leads to “Hot Summer Nights” June through August, and come autumn, Oktoberfest.

“We want to be bigger and better every year,” Loomis said of making downtown a hub for these and other activities. “We want to being the community downtown.”

Conway turns green

Conway’s “Gathering of the Green,” on Friday, kicks off all the festivities locally. Hillary Howard, executive director of Conway Downtown Alive, said “the highlight last year – the wacky games” are giving this festival its trademark.

“Cabbage bowling” has been added for the 2014 lineup, she said, in between laughs, with the return of “the potato hurl,” and a “giant-pickle eating contest.”

On a street closed down for this evening, “Taste of Conway,” with eight local restaurants, along with a show by the Chicora Car Club, and two “fan favorites” in bands – Spots and Finnegan Bell – will round out the staples of the festival, Howard said.

Describing two food games in more detail, Howard said the cabbage balls for bowling probably won’t weigh more than 2 pounds, and that for the potato hurl last year, some folks dressed as leprechauns held up hula hoops as targets last year for the throwers.

“Nothing will be any heavier than for a shotput,” Howard said. “Put down your phones and do the real thing.”

Put a sock in it

Also, the S.C. Maritime Museum in Georgetown will have its third annual “Burning of the Socks” spring celebration and benefit, 4-7 p.m. Sunday.

Sally Swineford, a coordinator and the owner of the neighboring River Room Restaurant, on Front Street, said the originator of this rite of spring in the mid-1980s to mark the vernal equinox, Capt. Bob Turner, a retired boatyard manager, attended the 2013 Georgetown socks event, but “we’ll make a bigger deal this year” with him as the special guest.

The formal ceremony entails, as Turner first did at home in Annapolis, Md., setting into a paint tray some old, worn, worked socks from a winter of boat maintenance and setting them ablaze, safely, to herald a new season.

Swineford said this East Coast ritual has been customized for Georgetown’s harborfront, part of a whole museum evening, which will include a cornhole tournament, music by the Blue Plantation Band, and “great food.”

Ed Piotrowski, WPDE-TV 15’s chief meteorologist, will return as master of ceremonies, also orating Jefferson Holland’s poem penned in 1995 in Annapolis, “Ode to the Sock Burners,” Swineford said, “which is what we read before every ‘Burning of the Socks.’ ”

About its timing around St. Patrick’s Day and the formal start of spring on March 20, Swineford said she and colleagues chose between March 16 or 23, but like last year, opted for this same weekend again, which this time, falls on the eve of St. Patrick’s Day.

“Its jus a fun get-together on the waterfront,” she said of the Sampit River setting behind the museum. “It’s such a beautiful spot.”

Them Georgetown boys got an odd tradition,

When the sun sinks to its Equinox position.

They build a little fire down along the docks,

They doff their shoes, and they burn their winter socks.

Yes, they burn their socks at the Equinox.

You might think that’s peculiar, but I think it’s not.

See, they’re the same socks they put on last fall,

And never took ‘em off to wash ‘em, not at all.

So, they burn their socks at the Equinox.

In a little ol’ fire burning nice and hot.

Some think incineration is the only solution,

‘Cause washin’ ‘em contributes to Sampit pollution.

Through the spring and the summer and into the fall,

They go around not wearin’ any socks at all,

Just stinky bare feet stuck in old deck shoes,

Whether out on the water or sippin’ a brew.

So if you sail into the Harbor on the 17th of March,

And you smell Limburger sautéed with laundry starch,

You’ll know you’re downwind of the Georgetown docks,

Where they’re burning their socks for the Equinox.

So gather up your crusty ol’ winter socks, come to the S.C. Maritime Museum on Sunday, March 16, and set your piggies free.

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